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The problem, and the good news, is that The Young Pope as an online phenomenon relies on a version of The Young Pope that doesn’t actually exist: a version that isn’t cognizant of how ridiculous it is, and doesn’t take full advantage of that ridiculousness. If you’re just looking to fire off some jokes in exchange for virtual hearts, or even if you’re HBO — viewers are viewers, ironic or not — that doesn’t change much. It also doesn’t make the gap between the two Young Popes any less fascinating, nor the internet’s ability to create an entire alternate show for the sole purpose of reacting to it sight unseen. All that’s left is to see whether The Young Pope as we’ve joked it into being can coexist with The Young Pope as it actually is.

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