Collaring new auds

BBC's 'Monastery' converts reality faithful

As a sexed-up “Big Brother 6” launched May 27 on the U.K.’s Channel 4 with more single contestants and less privacy in a bid to put another nail in the coffin of ITV’s flailing “Celebrity Love Island,” the press was buzzing again over the corrupting influence of reality TV shows.

But another new reality series has quietly generated notable ratings while keeping its clothes on.

BBC2’s “The Monastery” features five men from different walks of life who retreated to Worth Abbey in Sussex for 40 days and 40 nights in search of spiritual enlightenment. They adhered to the strict Benedictine monastic rules of silence, obedience and humility.

With an average 2.5 million viewers and 10% share, the Tiger Aspect-produced three-parter, which aired May 10, 17 and 24, proved a solid ratings success for BBC2. But its success runs deeper than ratings.

Media-savvy Worth Abbey topper Abbot Christopher agreed to let cameras in in the hope that the five participants “would discover hidden depths in life and in those hidden depths encounter God.”

The abbot couldn’t have hoped for better results: Response by the five participants and auds to the monks’ austere existence has been startling.

Although filming concluded last August, all five men remain in regular contact with the monks they befriended at Worth. And the abbey’s Web site has generated more than 20,000 hits from viewers interested in a more contemplative life.

BBC Worldwide has international rights to “The Monastery.”

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