June 2nd, 2008
For the sake of not repeating my excitement from yesterday’s blog post, let’s get right to it: ABC’s new season of The Mole has a lot to live up to, and there’s a lot of unknowns. With a new host and with a new format, watching this first episode is all about keeping an open mind to a show that is similar but certainly not quite the same.
This really hasn’t happened with a reality show like this before, so it’s interesting to see how much the producers have tried to follow the original show’s structure. Starting with the opening music, it is clear that this is at least similar to the series we once loved.
When the first task hits and they’re jumping over a waterfall after one contestant is singled out to make the decisions for the group, the flashbacks hit: it was the second season all over again, and all of a sudden we’re literally plummeting over the waterfall of suspicion. We want to figure out who the Mole is, what tasks will follow, and what these people have in store.
And this is enough to float this return: I have some issues with the hosting, issues with a few changes, but at the end of the day the game is almost identical to before. And with real people as opposed to celebrities playing the game yet again, the balance between silly and serious is back on the right path, and I am once again excited to learn who, precisely, is The Mole.
And that’s really what I want, in the end. And since that’s what I got, who can complain?
First and foremost, let’s discuss Jon Kelley, the show’s host. When the episode started, the opening narration was way over the top. Kelley was over-dramatizing, and felt like he was trying too hard to make things sound serious or impressive. So, right off the bat, it feels like something’s off.
And the narration issue continues throughout the episode: Kelley’s ADR work just doesn’t live up to Anderson Cooper’s dulcet tones, feeling too forced. Luckily, Kelley is more comfortable in the moment: it still feels like blatant exposition when he introduces things like the journals or the concept of The Mole, but at least he seems to be having fun and interacting with them. He won’t be winning an Emmy any time soon, but he seems to be at least having fun in the role.
And the show is still willing to have fun with itself, something that the show has always been good with. Although the Celebrity editions took this issue way too far, with non-celebrities at play the show’s balance of super-serious music and theming with rather ridiculous situations. It’s a show where the tasks, unlike Survivor, are often designed to embarrass as opposed to testing their actual skills.
On that front, the “Crusoe” task is a smart choice: it allows for the players to self-destruct physically (Odd that Bobby, a seemingly fit individual, nearly has a stroke) and mentally (The players’ inability to realize that a vacuum cleaner wasn’t invented in the 18th century). As a result, the “mind game” aspect is played up within each task, and one of our key sources of entertainment (Watching these people obsess over who is the Mole and make absolute fools of themselves trying to either throw people on or off the trail) remains in place.
In the process of that task, and the Waterfall task, we get a good sense of some (if not all) of the cast. We get our biggest glimpse into Nicole, an OBGYN with a very high opinion of herself, and who more importantly decides to “circumvent” rules and stay up all night. It’s one of the most malicious reality premiere edits I’ve seen in a while, and it’s unfortunate that no one else gets the same treatment.
Our next largest persona is the person playing the game, Paul – a stereotypical New Yorker, he is immediately forming two coalitions (One fake, one real). He’s clearly played the game, knowing the official Mole term for an alliance, and he definitely has a few people barking up the wrong tree. He’s a lot of fun to watch, and although he could grate over time I’m at least glad to see someone who is playing the game at this stage.
As for the night’s departure, Marci is an intriguing and nicely game-shifting victim for The Mole – she was the person everyone selected as being The Mole after first meeting everyone, and therefore was in a central role in the episode. Her departure also throws Paul’s coalition for a loop, and has got to make him concerned that whatever information he was sharing with her was wrong. Perhaps, then, his coalition with Alex might be his best bet.
Now, there’s a few things I miss: the new school touch screen is a huge mistaken, ruining the dramatic typing-in of names that I was so very fond of. By the same token, the new technology led to an awkward video conference that took something we already knew and made it seem a bit too hokey. But then the episode concluded with the exact same post-execution post-scripts from before, reactions where people act extremely sad and vent only some of their thoughts or frustrations. It’s a cheesy thing, but it was enough to bring on my nostalgia in a big way.
And perhaps that’s what we have here, a success largely based on the previous show’s framework that takes a few liberties but for the most part apes what worked best: the game is still the same, the tone is still the same, and while I will miss the textbox more than I can ever express in 1000 words I have to admit that Kelley is a decent alternative to Anderson Cooper, and for the most part there is no reason why fans of the old edition could turn their backs on the new one.
Consider me on the bandwagon.
- As for the other players, not much to report: 60-year old Liz is often underestimated, Mark got a sob story edit that made me convinced he was going home, Craig is the prime candidate for many due to his lovable nature, and everyone else (especially the numerous model-types) just faded into the background.
- While the music is extremely similar, am I alone in my feeling that I still miss the old music (Especially the execution tune)? It was extremely iconic, but since ABC actually advertised “With new music!” I guess they at least had the decency to replace it with something similar if not quite the same. Maybe they lost the rights.
- Line of the episode: “I don’t have to do anything but stay black and die!” – Nicole. This may be my favourite life strategy of all time.