ABC revives 'The Mole', new non-celebrity edition to debut in summer
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 01/08/2008
After four years off the air, The Mole -- one of the modern reality era's first broadcast network reality shows -- is going to resurface.
ABC has announced it has ordered a new non-celebrity The Mole edition that will feature "new 'whodunit' game elements, interactivity and a new host."
Ten episodes have been ordered, Daily Varietyreported Monday night, with casting and pre-production currently underway and filming likely scheduled to begin this spring for a Summer 2008 debut.
While it's been four years since The Mole's most recent Celebrity Mole Hawaii installment aired in early 2004, the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike apparently had nothing to do with the reality competition series' planned revival.
"This is a show we honestly love and people ask us about all the time," ABC executive John Saade told Variety. "We were looking to bring the show back even when the writers were working."
Stone and Company Entertainment -- the new name of Stone Stanley Entertainment, the production company that produced The Mole's first four seasons -- will produce The Mole's new edition. (Scott Stone reorganized Stone Stanley as Stone and Company after David Stanley, the company's other principal, decided to leave it in 2004.)
According to Stone, he had been hoping to revive The Mole for some time. "It was just about getting the timing right," Stone told Variety.
The problem was apparently that The Mole's American rights had reportedly reverted back to TTTI, a Belgium company that owns the show's format (like other early broadcast network reality shows such as Big Brother and Survivor, The Mole is an American adaptation of an existing European series). Stone finally managed to close a new deal to license the show two months ago, according to Variety.
"If anyone asks me what my favorite show has been, I've answered The Mole," Stone told Variety. "Not surprisingly, this has been a passion of mine since the option lapsed three or four years ago. In my staff meeting every week, people would say, 'Don't even bring it up.' I kept throwing it out that it was eventually going to be the right time. And it perennially ends up on lists of people's favorite reality shows. That kept the fires burning inside me."
When The Mole 2 finally returned to the airwaves in May 2002 -- back in a Tuesday night time slot -- ABC rebroadcast its 13-episode run from the beginning and the show delivered decent ratings despite airing against the first season of Fox's American Idol.
Buoyed by the show's summer ratings success, ABC announced plans to air a six-episode Celebrity Mole edition almost immediately after The Mole 2's August 2002 finale.
Celebrity Mole Yucatanpremiered nearly a year later in January 2004, and while it delivered another solid ratings performance, ABC (which was still struggling in the ratings at the time) let its option for ordering another another installment expire -- a decision that reportedly surprised some of the network's competitors.
"[Given ABC's lack of major hits], you'd think they'd be treating that show like it was Dynasty," one rival executive told Variety at the time.
Although Stone Stanley reportedly began pitching the show to other networks at the time, nothing ever came of the situation, which based on Stone's new comments, was possibly complicated by the TTTI option lapse.
Anderson Cooper helmed The Mole's first two editions, but Variety reported he isn't available to host its ABC revival due to his current gig with CNN, which also prevented him from hosting the show's celebrity editions. Ahmad Rashad, who hostedThe Mole's two watered-down celebrity installments in Cooper's place, wasn't asked to return, according to Variety.
"We're looking for someone in the Anderson mode, a little mysterious but full of comedy," Stone told Variety. "It could be a breakout role for someone."
The show will be "launching a nationwide search to replace Cooper," according to ABC. Player casting information will be available at molecasting.com
The Mole's revival will follow the show's original format and follow a group of contestants as they travel across a foreign country and complete tasks and puzzles intended to increase the amount of money in the show's grand-prize pot (up to $1,000,000 is available for earning). However while the rest of the cast is seeking to successfully complete their assignments, one contestant -- the mole -- will be attempting to secretly sabotage the activities and limit the amount of money the show's winner will eventually receive.
While various clues (some extremely subtle and complicated, others less so) to the mole's identity appear throughout the show's run, neither the rest of the cast or the show's home viewers -- or even the show's host -- are informed of the mole's identity until the competition's conclusion.
Each The Mole episode concludes with the contestants taking a secret ballot quiz in which they attempt to answer questions about the mole, with the participant who answers the fewest questions correctly being eliminated from the competition (the mole is never eliminated.)
Once three contestants are left, the remaining contestants take one final quiz and the non-mole contestant who answers the most questions correctly wins all the money the cast managed to earn during the competition.
"We simplified it to where the people at home can play along, and the quiz will be much shorter than in the past," Stone told Variety about the show's return. Stone also insisted the revival won't "dumb down" The Mole's original format, which had resulted in the show being dubbed "television's smartest reality show."
During The Mole's first season, Steven Cowles won the season's $510,000 prize by correctly determining that fellow contestant Kathryn Price -- a Stanford University Law School graduate who later worked behind the scenes on the show's second season -- had been competition's mole. The show's second season ended with Dorothy Hui, a Dartmouth College graduate, winning $636,000 for determining that Bill McDaniel had been serving as the season's mole.
The Mole's original 2001 debut came only six months after Survivor's Summer 2000 premiere opened the broadcast network reality TV floodgates.
Elements of The Mole's format eventually turned up in other reality shows over the years, including The Bachelor's fifth season, which featured an embedded "spy" bachelorette that was secretly working on bachelor Jesse Palmer's behalf, and Big Brother 8, which featured an "America's Player" twist that allowed home viewers to secretly determine the actions of one of the competition's houseguests.