Five modern young women, self-confessed addicts to selfies, booze and one-night stands, embark on what may be a journey of spiritual transformation as they move into a convent for a whole month in BAD HABITS, HOLY ORDERS. What could possibly go wrong?
At first glance, Bad Habits could be taken as a chance to poke fun at both the materialistic, seemingly shallow youngsters and the staid, naïve nuns. To a certain extent it does. However, there are some deep questions posed by this programme which is a pleasant surprise for a slice of reality TV.
Over a shot of an illuminated Latin manuscript, accompanied by the singing of the obligatory medieval-sounding choir, we are asked: Have we lost our sense of morality? Can a course of quiet contemplation, giving up the trappings of modern life even just for a short while, really make a difference?
The nuns of the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Swaffham adhere to a lifestyle of frugal self-denial, practicing the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Good luck with recommending that to the five women, who really have no idea what they’re letting themselves in for.
This first programme in the series introduces us to Paige, Gabbi, Tyla, Sarah and Rebecca, who all enter the convent with a huge sense of shock and a lot of clothes. They all laugh nervously as they hand over their mobile phones at the initial meeting between them and the nuns who will be guiding them for the next four weeks. Sister Francis lays down the law – lights out and total silence at 10pm; certainly no swearing or alcohol. The young women stop laughing.
Some of the most illuminating scenes are those where the parents voice their concerns about their children. Gabbi’s father is worried about the pressures from social media, and Gabbi herself confesses that her self-worth comes from Instagram. Tyla’s mother thinks that her spending is out of control (£40k in one year on hair, clothes and accessories).
The most painful to watch is Rebecca. She is not used to self-restraint, and it’s having an immense impact on family life. Her father says that some of what she does is wrong, that she’s hanging around with the wrong people, but she has a good heart. Rebecca says that it feels like her dad hates her – she hankers after the days when she was daddy’s little girl. She says, sadly, that she doesn’t know what to do.
Nearing the end of the programme, it seems like the five are finally understanding that there is more to life than material possessions, or likes for a post on social media. And you think, well something’s working. Then there is the incident with the smuggled bottle of vodka, the sulky childlike “I’m sorry”, and you don’t know whether to give them a good shake or a big hug.
Next week sees the five breaking out of the convent and hitting the town, bored of routine and structure. This is going to be a long journey for everyone.
- Aired on Channel 5, October 19 2017 at 22:00.