Tuesday, January 8, 2008

This morning I was very excited to read that "The Mole" will be returning to ABC this summer. "The Mole"!! The first high quality reality show aside from "Amazing Race!" Well, in my opinion anyways.

In case you missed it (which you might have, it was only on for two seasons, not counting the celebrity editions), "The Mole" on the surface presents as your typical competition reality show. Contestants perform random challenges for the chance to earn money. Winner gets all the money. The first twist comes when it's made clear that the amount of money the winner will get is dependent on how well everyone does in challenges. There is no set prize; if the group can't finish a task, or they screw up somehow, then the pot goes down. (click for more)

Making matters more complicated is the second twist: the mole. The mole is hired by the producers to keep the pot as small as possible and prevent the group from earning money. He or she is disguised as a contestant, and the other contestants have no idea who the mole is. Each round the mole gets information about the challenges from the producers. Well, most of the time; there was one round in Season 1 where the producersdeliberately didn't tell the mole about the upcoming challenge in order to get a genuine surprise reaction. Sometimes the producers tell the mole what to do, and other times the mole has to figure out how to sabotage the tasks. When you first watch the show, you think that all you have to do is see who threw the challenges that week and that would be the mole. But what if the mole decided that week not to do anything? What if the person who lost the challenge for everyone really just sucks at cycling or whatever? What if that person screwed up on purpose so people would suspect them and not the mole? It's a lot trickier than it looks. People pretend to be the mole on purpose because elimination depends on a quiz about the mole's identity and activities. Score well and move on. Score poorly (because you have no idea who the mole is) and you will get a red thumbprint.

Viewers at home aren't told who the mole is either, except for stupid clues that are either ridiculous (Katherine was the fourth person to be seen in the credits and 4 is the magic number because "mole" has 4 letters) or stupid easy (anyone with a Tivo can pause the second season credits to find a message that says "Bill is the mole"). So you can play along with everyone else.

Oh, but by far the best part of the mole was the host. Anderson Cooper.

Yes, I know he's on CNN now and he's a well respected journalist. Whatever. He's the perfect host. First of all, I could listen to him talk all day long. Important when you have a lot of voiceovers. Second, he's hot. Somebody somewhere (I can't find it now) said he looks like he could be a CIA agent. He really could, imagine him in a trench coat. I would probably watch the show just for that. Third, he likes to screw with the contestants. In the first season one of the challenges was to distinguish between a fake watch and a real Cartier watch. Of course they are in France somewhere and no one speaks English. As the contestants run from shop to shop, Anderson is hanging around outside laughing at them. At one point he is eating a sandwich and when they run by he yells "Don't you wish you had paid attention in French class?" So much better than Probst's lame play-by-play. He lent a good aura of authority but you could tell he was having a great time. Sadly he won't be back. But I am hoping they find someone just as good. They didn't ask Ahmad back so that's an excellent sign.

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