Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brian Love The Mole

Given that the fifth season concluded last week, I thought it would be an appropriate time to write what will likely turn out to be a eulogy for what may be my all-time favorite reality show: The Mole.

For the tragically unaware, the premise of The Mole is as follows: A team of people work together to complete tasks and win money that goes into a pot which will be awarded to the eventual winner. However, one player has been selected by the producers to act as The Mole and deliberately sabotage the tasks without being detected. At the end of each episode (usually two tasks), everyone takes a quiz that has ten questions about the identity of the Mole. Whoever scores lowest is executed (kicked off the show).

The show originally aired around 2001, I think, and ran for two seasons with "normal" people. These were truly the golden years of the show, as any fan will tell you. Anderson Cooper was the host, and he was by far the best host of a reality show ever. Funny, engaging, dreamy - sigh. Besides that, the casting was excellent. I really really want to be friends with the first mole, Kathryn, and I want to date the first runner-up, Jim. The second season also had several fantastic personalities. Who can forget crying Katie (who was part of one of my favorite reality TV moments ever), crazy Al, sexy Bribs, and the amazingly smartly pretty ultimate winner, Dorothy? These two seasons are some of the best reality TV ever made.

But ABC couldn't leave well enough alone, and the next season became Celebrity Mole: Hawaii. Also, we lost Anderson Cooper as Ahmad Rashad took over. Yes, Mole fans were treated to a season of 7 C-List celebrities playing their beloved game, but fortunately enough, one contestant singlehandedly saved the entire season: Kathy Griffin. Kathy was hilarious, fun, and evidently quite savvy herself, as she took down the grand prize. (Let's face it, if Erik von Detten had won, the show would have died right then.) In retrospect, it really wasn't such a bad season. ABC, discouraged by the fact that they had not managed to sink the show yet, followed this up with the way shitty Celebrity Mole: Yucatan, which Dennis Rodman somehow managed to win. The show was then canceled.

But wait! During the writer's strike last year, ABC announced that The Mole would be coming back! Mole fans everywhere rejoiced. Also, the new edition would go back to the original format, meaning it would be normal folks again! As the season started, though, things felt a little bit different. The same magic didn't seem to be there. We were quick to write off the new version, saying the casting was wrong, the challenges were worse, the editing was too obvious, and on and on.

Although some of these charges had merit, it's my opinion that we were all being a little bit too hard on the show. The challenges weren't quite as exciting, but it seems possible or even likely that the show had a much smaller budget this time around. The show also improved as the season went on, as most reality shows do. I really came to like both Craig, the Mole, and Nicole, the runner-up. Craig did an excellent job in both concealing his identity and sabotaging missions. Nicole, although much of the Internet hated her, appealed to me with her "ugh, fuck this" attitude and through comments such as, "I'm going to kill you in your sleep." Even Mark, the winner, seemed to get over his super-veiny hockey dad (shout-out to Kathy Griffin!) nature. As the season ended, I realized I was actually quite satisfied. Sure, it didn't measure up to the first two seasons, but it was still better than a lot of reality TV.

America didn't seem to agree though, and odds are that due to low ratings, The Mole will again be executed. But if it somehow gets renewed or passed off to a new network, do yourself a favor and tune in.


Phillip said...

Mark is a soccer dad silly.

Brian said...

Someone (named Phillip) needs to bone up on their Kathy Griffin references.