Youth rules on Sunday, as HBO's The Young Pope goes head to head with a young queen, Victoria, on PBS's Masterpiece.
Pope Francis turned 80 last month. Britain's current monarch, Elizabeth II, is 90, an age at which she makes international headlines for skipping church to nurse a cold.
Little wonder that TV might look to their younger counterparts, the papal one fictional, the royal one prettily reimagined, for the excitement and romance the old aren't expected to provide.
Assumptions, though, can be dangerous, as the cardinals who choose a fortysomething American named Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) to lead the Roman Catholic Church quickly learn in The Young Pope.
It's not that Law's Pope Pius XIII isn't exciting. He is, in the ways that some of the pontiffs of old were exciting - he's ruthless, manipulative, possibly deranged - and there's certainly something intriguing about his insistence on preventing his image from becoming a marketing tool for the Vatican, or, indeed, for God.
A fan of cigarettes and Cherry Coke Zero who keeps a kangaroo in the garden and may not believe in God, the apparently ultraconservative Pius XIII isn't looking to inspire affection, eschewing the folksiness of Francis - who recently urged mothers to feel free to breast-feed in the Sistine Chapel - for an icy hauteur.
At the same time, he can come across as a lost boy.
Diane Keaton costars as Sister Mary, the new pope's closest adviser. (No apparent relation to Keaton's character in Sister Mary Explains It All.) She's a nun who has been a surrogate mother to Lenny since his parents abandoned him to an orphanage and who sleeps in a top that declares, "I'm a virgin - but this is an old T-shirt."
Yes, it's all decidedly odd.
Five episodes into the stylishly directed 10-episode series from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, I'm not exactly charmed by The Young Pope. (I do love the kangaroo.) But I am interested - perhaps more interested than I would have been a few months ago - in seeing whether a character who refuses to play by any established rules can effectively overcome the bureaucracy of a centuries-old institution.
(Pius XIII won't be the only character on TV Sunday to evoke comparisons to the disruptive powers of Donald Trump. As Showtime's Homeland returns for a sixth season at 9 p.m., some of the focus is on a president-elect, played by House of Cards' Elizabeth Marvel, who's at odds with the intelligence community.)
Viewers who wish television would engage more with religion probably won't find solace in Sorrentino's European cynicism - or is it whimsy? - or in contemplating the sexual appetites of a pope. Without having seen the entire series, I can't say there's a spiritual payoff for what may just be an artist's self-indulgence, but it never hurts to be reminded that religious institutions and their earthly representatives are not meant to be objects of worship.
And so I'm not so concerned about whether Lenny Belardo believes in God.
I would love to know whether God believes in Lenny.
The Young Pope scored record ratings in its Italian premiere. HBO will roll it out over five weeks, with new episodes debuting at 9 p.m. Sundays and Mondays, a schedule that suggests a lack of confidence in its reception in the U.S., but that probably won't matter to on-demand viewers.
A romantic 'Victoria'
Victoria, which makes its two-hour U.S. premiere on PBS's Masterpiece (9 p.m., WHYY12) and which will run through March 5, isn't likely to rile anyone but possibly nitpicking historians.
Written by novelist Daisy Goodwin, the series stars Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) as the young queen, who ascended to the throne at 18, remaining on it long enough to bestow her name on an entire age.
Emerging from a suffocating childhood upon the death of her uncle William IV, Victoria loses little time in attempting to escape the clutches of her mother (Catherine H. Flemming) and her mother's skeevy companion, Sir John Conroy (Paul Rhys), who has been counting the days until he can run the country through a puppet monarch.
Poorly educated but apparently eager to learn, she becomes a willing pupil of the prime minister, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell, The Man in the High Castle), with whom she was, in Goodwin's telling, anyway, more than a little bit obsessed.
We know that Victoria will end up with Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), that they'll eventually have nine children, and that there will someday be a museum in London named after them, but Goodwin is determined that theirs should first be a thrilling romance, the kind in which each of the young lovers plays hard to get before they, inevitably, catch each other.
Let's just say that Netflix's The Crown manages to generate more heat than this between the future Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and her consort, Prince Philip (Matt Smith), without resorting to romcom shenanigans.
Albert and Philip do share a concern about taking second place to their powerful wives, but, like The Crown, Victoria at its best when the young queen is exercising her authority - and learning its limits - while widening her horizons, not worrying about what Albert might think.
Some of the palace household intrigues seem aimed a little too directly at Downton Abbey fans, and, overall, Victoria tries harder than it probably needs to in order to endear its subject to a 21st-century audience.
Still, Coleman, fitted with blue contact lenses that make her eyes pop (in a good way), makes an enchanting young queen, and Sewell gives off more heat than any prime minister has a right to.
Are we amused? Of course we are.