In a surprising development, the struggling ABC Network has let its option for future installments of its The Mole reality franchise expire, making the program a "free agent" eligible to be picked up by other broadcast networks.

According to Daily Variety, given the relatively strong ratings performance of the just-completed Celebrity Mole Yucatan edition -- which tied for first in its timeslot in the desirable Adults 18-34 demographic and improved the network's previous time period average by 43% -- the decision befuddled other Hollywood executives.

While at first glance the network's decision to refuse to quickly commit to another Mole edition and allow the option to lapse might seem to bode ill for Mole fans, upon more careful consideration, getting away from ABC -- a network that has mishandled the show for several years now (dating back to its inexplicable Friday night scheduling of Fall 2001's The Mole II: The Next Betrayal and subsequent shelving of the series until Summer 2002) -- might be the best thing that could ever happen to the popular "whodunit" series.

Variety notes that the program's Stone Stanley producers are actively pitching the show to other networks as an "Adults 18-34 magnet" -- with a real possibility that, should another series opt to pick up the series, the new broadcast network would finally authorize what true Mole viewers have been craving for two years now and what ABC refused to do -- approve the filming of a third full-length non-celebrity edition of the show (the dumbed-down celebrity editions are far too easy for true "molerons.")

Regardless of whatever statements ABC executives might make in any attempt to explain their decision (and they wonder why they've been in last place for several years now) other networks found the network's decision to be a bit of a head-scratcher. One rival executive whose considering making a bid for the program told Variety that, given ABC's lack of any major hits, "you'd think they'd be treating that show like it was Dynasty."