The Mole (U.S. TV series)
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|Also known as||
|Genre||Reality game show|
|Theme music composer||David Michael Frank|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||45|
|Running time||43 minutes|
|Original release||January 9, 2001– August 11, 2008|
|Related shows||The Mole|
The Mole is an American reality game show that aired on ABC. It was based on other versions of Belgian TV series The Mole that have aired in numerous countries. The Mole was produced by Stone Stanley Entertainment for its first four seasons. It was cancelled but was later picked up again after a four year hiatus. The fifth season was produced by Stone & Co. Entertainment.
The series is a reality competition in which the contestants work as a group to add money to a pot that only one of them will eventually win. Among the contestants is one person who has been designated "the Mole" by the producers and is tasked with sabotaging the group's money-making efforts. At the end of each episode, the contestant who knows the least about the mole, as decided by the results of a quiz, is eliminated from the game.
The series was first hosted by news reporter Anderson Cooper; for the third season, Ahmad Rashād replaced Cooper, and Rashād was in turn replaced by Jon Kelley for the fifth season. The third and fourth seasons featured celebrity contestants instead of average citizens. The series' logo is a bright green thumbprint.
The contestants typically meet for the first time at or shortly before the start of filming, shortly before their first task. They are given black duffel bags with the show's thumbprint logo and their names on them in which to keep their belongings. Each is also given a numbered journal which is the only place they are permitted to record information and thoughts about the other contestants.
Some contestants form "coalitions" with other contestants, ostensibly to share theories and observations about the other contestants. Some contestants attempt to cause others to believe that they are the Mole, on the premise that believing the wrong person is the Mole will result in them having poor quiz results.
Each mission (referred to as "tests" in season 1, and as "games" in seasons 2–4) generally has a cash reward towards the group pot for various levels of success. On occasion, a mission will have a cash penalty for failure. The missions comprise a wide variety of physical and/or mental (brain teaser) challenges posed to the contestants. Most are straightforward, and the rules are fully explained to all contestants. In some cases, however, a mission is not fully explained to all contestants, increasing its difficulty. In those cases, perhaps only selected contestants are informed of the full nature of the challenge, and must work towards a different goal than the rest. In rare instances, there are secret missions which only one, or none of the contestants are aware of.
Missions are sometimes entirely physical, or entirely mental, but usually have elements of both. Overcoming fear is a common challenge theme, however, none of the missions have ever involved harmful actions (e.g. ingesting unsavory items as done in Fear Factor) or explicitly unsafe stunts. Some missions have involved "extreme" activities such as bungee jumping, rappelling, or tightrope walking, but all are under strict expert supervision with proper harnessing.
Another common theme used in seasons 1, 2, 4, and 5, was use of the locale as an obstacle (such as overcoming a language barrier).
Some missions require every member of the team to complete their task for the team to earn money, while other missions award money for each contestant that finished, regardless of the others. A common requirement is for the team to divide themselves into groups based on given attributes (e.g., "leaders" and "followers") before they learn what the task is.
Secret missions may include "morality tests," where the players might be unexpectedly approached by a local (secretly arranged by the producers), for help (i.e., change a tire, etc.) The contestants would later be informed that they won or lost the mission depending upon if they helped the person in need.
In addition to challenges, violations of the game's rules by a player, such as going out after curfew or talking about a forbidden topic, can result in a deduction from the group pot as a penalty.
Failing a secret "morality test" may also warrant a penalty.
Quizzes & Execution
Each quiz follows the same basic format, asking either twenty or ten (depending on the season) questions about the identity of the Mole. Questions are in multiple choice format with widely varying number of choices; some questions have only two options (e.g. yes/no answer). The questions reflect upon a variety of observations about the Mole. Some ask about personal information (i.e., physical attributes, personal history, likes/dislikes, all collected from the original game applications). Other questions are based on in-game information (i.e., how the Mole performed in that day's mission). The final question of each quiz is ostensibly "Who is the Mole?", with all remaining players' names as options. The final question does not hold more weight than the others, and it is not unusual for players to miss that question, but still score well on the quiz.
After dinner, all players (including those exempted from execution) complete the quiz in private on a computer. The Mole also completes the quiz so as to avoid suspicion. The player who has the lowest score on the quiz is eliminated from the game in an "execution" ceremony and are said to be "executed by the Mole." If there is a tie for lowest score amongst two or more players, the tied player who completed the quiz in the slowest elapsed time would be executed. The Mole is always safe from execution and is guaranteed to be involved in the game until the very end, though he or she can never win.
The execution ceremony consists of the players sitting in rows of chairs before the host. In the first four seasons, the host had a laptop on which he typed each player's name, in no apparent order, one at a time. This caused a large television display of the thumbprint logo to turn either green or red, often after a tension-building pause. A green thumbprint indicated the player was safe. The red thumbprint signified the player as executed. For the fifth season, the laptop and screen were replaced with a single HDTV touchscreen display, showing thumbnail images of each contestant. The host touched the players' images to bring them up on the screen. For dramatic effect, the host would then often ask the contestant if he or she was ready for the results, then a second touch of the screen would reveal the same green or red thumbprint. None of the players are given any other information as to their performance on the test, aside from the one being executed.
Contestants are sometimes awarded an Exemption from execution. An exempt contestant receives a free pass to the next round during that night's execution ceremony, and can not be eliminated, regardless of their quiz score. In the first season, exemptions were an occasional twist, while in the second through fifth seasons, exemptions were offered in almost every episode, and were highly coveted. Once awarded during gameplay, exemptions are announced publicly to the group, and are otherwise not considered secret during the execution ceremony.
Even after the first season, exemptions are usually twists in the game. In some cases, exemptions are awarded to a single player for an exceptional effort or performance during that day's task. Sometimes the exempted player is chosen by the group, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Other times, the exemption comes in the form of a temptation to not complete a task and forfeit money for the pot; or as an unexpected consolation prize for failure during a task..
In frequent cases, the exemption is a secret element to the day's game, revealed only to the player(s) eligible. A player(s) may find themselves surprisingly eligible to receive an exemption by carrying out simple, honest, coincidental acts such as being the last person to leave the breakfast table, or eating the last piece of pie at dessert. Likewise, that player's ploy to achieving the exemption is often unbeknownst to the other players.
In the second season, there was an additional element called the "neutralizer" which prevented a contestant from being eligible for an exemption that episode.
The first season of The Mole consisted of nine episodes, first aired from January 9, 2001 – February 28, 2001. It featured ten civilian contestants, one of whom was the Mole. The maximum possible value of the pot was $1,000,000, and each quiz consisted of twenty questions.
Season 2 of The Mole was subtitled The Next Betrayal. Fourteen civilian contestants, one of whom was the Mole, competed over 13 episodes. The first three episodes aired September 21 – October 12, 2001 before going on hiatus until the next summer, starting again from the first episode on May 24, 2002. The season again took place in Europe, mainly featuring Switzerland and Italy. The maximum possible pot was again $1,000,000, but the quizzes were shortened to 10 questions. Various other minor format elements were changed for the second season.
Season 3 was billed Celebrity Mole: Hawaii and featured a cast of seven celebrities. The season, which was only six episodes long, was filmed on the Big Island of Hawaii. The possible maximum jackpot was also reduced to $250,000. The season aired from January 8 – February 12, 2003.
The fourth season was billed Celebrity Mole: Yucatan, and featured eight celebrity contestants, including two returning from the previous season. The season was again a short seven episodes long, and was filmed on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The season aired from January 7 – February 18, 2004.
The Mole returned after a four-year hiatus for a fifth season, returning to the civilian contestant format. Twelve contestants, one of whom was the mole, competed for a maximum pot of $500,000. The setting for this season was Argentina and Chile. The season aired from June 2 – August 11, 2008. This season received an Emmy nomination for best theme song composition.
Following the conclusion of Season 5 of The Mole, ABC did not comment on its consideration for a sixth season. On April 8, 2009, they announced that the show had been cancelled. Fans have also created their own private site to encourage the signing of an online petition, e-mailing ABC executives, as well as sending "lemon-heads" to ABC headquarters in New York. (This is in reference to an occurrence on the fifth season of the show.) The latter of these techniques for being noticed is in reference to the successful revival of the television drama Jericho on CBS by bombarding their offices with packages of peanuts.