Must Holy See TV

Dear Pope Francis,

First of all, I'm a big fan. I'm Protestant so I don't know how much this means to you, but I think you're doing a pretty awesome job. And I have to say that your decision in 1990 to not watch any television is admirable. I imagine that allows you more time for more important activities like spiritual reflection and serving others. So I in no way want to deter you from your current television-less life.

But if you happen to find yourself holed up in the Vatican with a cold or, I don't know, your interest is piqued by one of the cardinals talking about Netflix then I have a few suggestions. I realize that you are probably getting inundated with TV show recommendations so I won't take it personally if you don't leave a comment on this blog. You're a busy guy with incredibly important things to do.

Let's start with the sitcoms. There are a lot of these, but I feel like a 30 minute comedy is more likely to fit into your busy schedule. Most of the shows that I am going to suggest center around tight communities, which is something that I think you'll find refreshing. Just for history's sake, you should probably watch the series finale of Cheers since that came after 1990. Sure the Rebecca years aren't as strong as the Diane years (like I have to tell you this), but it still ends solidly.

Among 90s sitcoms, a lot of people are going to suggest Friends or Seinfeld. While both of those shows have their merits, I'm not sure you would be too big of a fan of either. You strike me as more of a Frasier guy. I'm not sure why. For some reason I think you'd like its mix of intelligent humor and slapstick. Plus it's a spinoff of Cheers so there's some continuity there if you're tackling this list chronologically.

Closing out the 90s, you've got to go with one of my all-time favorites: Sports Night (from my understanding Sorkin's other great show The West Wing has some great Catholic characters; I might watch it this summer so I'll report back to you). Smart dialogue. Characters who care about their profession. Great cast. It deserved more than two seasons. Moving into the 2000s, I think you might find some resonance with the doctors grappling with life, death, and the mundane in Scrubs. It kind of loses its moorings as it goes on but rallies really well in the end (Season 8; I can't speak for the Zombie Scrubs season that centered around new medical school students).

My only other sitcom suggestion is to check out everything in the Daniels-Schur family tree. Seasons 2-4 of The Office are awesome. It gets a bit bumpy beyond that but I can help you navigate the rest of the series. Parks and Recreation is fantastic; possibly my favorite show ever. Plus, I have found many lessons for the church within its seven seasons. The first season is rough so what I'd recommend is watching Seasons 2 and 3 then watch Season 1 to appreciate how far the show came. Then watch the rest of the series which ends wonderfully. If you want to catch something of that lineage that is still airing, go with Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It has a funny, deep ensemble and each episode is worth it for Andre Braugher saying things like "Velvet Thunder" with monotone hilarity.

I don't have much for you in the drama department just because I find life to be too heavy sometimes as it is. You know what I mean. Definitely watch Lost. People might warn you off because of its divisive ending (an ending of which I am an apologist), but I think you'll find its musings on good/evil, faith, community, and destiny to be well worth it. Also, the twists in the first season will blow your mind. In fact, if you do watch Lost, please do a podcast in which you break down each episode. That would make my year. Also, it's not exactly a drama, but The Flash has proven itself to be a delightful piece of superhero escapism. I think you'd like Barry Allen.

People will suggest that you go with Survivor for your reality TV fix, but I personally recommend The Amazing Race. You get to see the world, it has even more a sense of adventure, and there is less focus on how contestants can pull the wool over each other's eyes. Out of the competition realm, I think you would really appreciate Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It gave me a greater appreciation of God's creation. Sure it highlights some of the church's less flattering moments in relation to science but also highlights some great scientific pioneers from the faith as well. 

Unfortunately, there's not much as far as great religious-inspired television. There's plenty of religious television, but, I'm going to be honest Pope Francis, it can be some painful stuff. There was a really awesome reality show on TLC many years ago called The Monastery about a bunch of guys at rock bottom living with some Benedictines, but it didn't even make it past three or four episodes. I never even found out what happened. If you want a flawed, but fascinating take on scripture, check out Kings: a show cancelled after its only season that was a modern reimagining of the stories of Saul and David. They made some odd choices, but the ambition and imagination are impressive. At least check out the pilot.

Now missing from these suggestions are some common "Greatest Show of the Era" picks like The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. These shows are probably good. Lots of people seem to think so. I just haven't seen them. If you want to check them out, let me know how they are. In fact, EA and I will be in Rome for a few days in early July. If you want, we can come over and check a few of them out with you. I read in that article that you miss going out for pizza. I'll be happy to bring some over with the toppings of your choice. My treat. Just let me know.

Well, I've probably taken up enough of your time. On the subject of TV, I have a great idea for a show in which you and Pope Benedict get into Odd Couple-style shenanigans but that'll have to wait for another time. Hey! Maybe this summer. Anyway, I hope you're doing well. Keep up the good work. God bless.

Grace and peace,

P.S. Colbert! I forgot The Colbert Report . That is inexcusable. Please forgive me. You should watch Colbert. His Catholic faith is a centerpiece of the show and his personal modus operandi. You should totally watch Colbert.

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