A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality show focuses on religion and spiritual questing. Participants constantly discuss God, Catholicism, Alcoholics Anonymous, atheism, and other religious topics. One character is struggling as a reformed drug and alcohol addict, and he speaks frequently and in detail about his past exploits and his recovery efforts. A gory photo of one participant right after his leg was shot off in Iraq is shown. The monks, as well as the civilians, drink socially several times over the course of the show. A couple of the participants steal alcohol and binge-drink multiple times.
What's the story?
TLC brings viewers into the solitary and disciplined world of Benedictine monks in THE MONASTERY. A recovering addict, an ex-con, an aspiring priest, an injured Iraqi war vet, and a cynical paramedic converge on the Monastery of Christ in the desert in northern New Mexico for 40 days to participate in this reality show experiment, and perhaps find God along the way. But the most rewarding parts of The Monastery are the brief portraits of the monks -- likeable fellows who often defy stereotypes. The leader, Abbot Philip Lawrence, is an affable figure with a goofy laugh and a knack for forgiveness. And another monk nearly breaks your heart as he switches from high-fiving with the civilians to shyly defending the Virgin Mary's virtue: \"She is our mother, and I love her,\" he says quietly.
Is it any good?
Without immunity challenges or million-dollar prizes, The Monastery avoids the backstabbing and greed common to other reality shows. But without a definitive goal -- aside from the elusive (and hard to document) search for spiritual peace -- the show doesn't always captivate. And some of what promises to be the juiciest moments, like recovering addict Tom's confession, are off limits to the cameras.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about monastic life. What's the purpose of living in such a regimented way? Do teens think they could handle 40 days at the monastery? What would be the most difficult aspect -- getting up at 4 am? Being quiet all the time? Going to church for most of the day? Why would someone choose to become a monk? One of the monks left the monastery for a while but realized worldly things didn't make him happy. Do parents or teens ever feel disappointed by something that they expect to make them happy -- a new car, new clothes, a new movie? When do they feel happiest?