I’m not very interested in reality TV. I have gotten intensely involved in So You Think You Can Dance, and one summer I cared deeply about who would win The Bachelorette. But most of the time, I find reality TV repetitive and needlessly dramatic. Plus, I’ve never found anything that can live up to The Mole.
The Mole was, on the surface, a typical mission-based travel game show. Contestants had to perform challenges to add money to a group pot, and the winner of the show would take it all home. Part of the fun of the show came from the varied nature of the challenges, which included bull fights, laser tag, art shows, and jewelry appraisal. What elevated The Mole above similar shows, however, was the twist its name implies. Amongst the 10 contestants was one mole–a man or woman whose purpose was to sabotage the games and keep the winnings as low as possible. At the end of each episode, everyone took a quiz to identify the mole (which often included absurdly detailed questions like “At the start of the “Crusoe” mission, was the Mole wearing a hat?” The person who scored the lowest was eliminated, and the show went on.
You can imagine how twisted the game became. Everyone screwed up challenges so that other contestants would wrongly assume they were the mole. The mole would sometimes do well on challenges to trip people up. Sometimes the challenges were just really hard, and no one knew if people were incompetent or brilliantly deceptive.
Added to this dynamic was the strained friendships that developed. Alliances formed, but no one was quite sure whether they could trust that their allies weren’t playing them. There were so many psychological mind games!
And sometimes contestants bartered with show runners, offering up the reward money for challenges in exchange for an exemption from taking the test, automatically ensuring they would survive another week. These sorts of maneuvers were either desperate gambles or again, brilliant deceptions. All the players were incredibly smart people, which is, I think, the biggest reason I enjoyed this show. It was smart people being smart, not beautiful people lounging around a house making out with each other.
Plus, the show was hosted by the foxiest of silver foxes: Anderson Cooper.
Do yourself a favor and check out this amazing show. Full episodes are on YouTube.