“The Mole is Revealed”
August 11th, 2008
While I was without internet for most of yesterday, a frustrating scenario that messed up a lot of things, I was perhaps most upset that I had to miss out on blogging my initial reaction to last night’s Mole finale. I’d call it a cross between entertained and saddened, enjoying the reveal while remaining quite sad that there will likely never be another one like it.
The Mole hit this summer with very little buzz and, for the most part, ratings failure. And yet, for fans of the series, it was right in line: no, Jon Kelley was no Anderson Cooper, and I do kind of miss the old music, but for the most part as a “game” The Mole was right where we wanted it to be. The personalities may have gotten a bit out of hand, but chalk that up to the newfound prevalence of the “Be a Jerk” strategy in reality television as a whole, something that didn’t exist to the same degree in earlier seasons.
And, right in line with those expectations, we have a finale that fits: we have the Mole we suspected, the winner we wanted, and the reunion that feels like these people loved playing the game and loved even more to watch it back on a television and see all of the ridiculous things they said about people. There’s plenty of close calls, plenty of foot-in-mouth behaviour, and little enough drama for this to feel like the celebration it should be.
July 28th, 2008
If you want Mole-like behaviour, there’s an easy solution: give people goggles that display the video feed from a camera being controlled by another contestant, and then let them loose in a variety of simple tasks that are both easy to finish and, of course, easy to sabotage. That seems to be the nature of the game this time around: tasks where every second talking head is “I think that could have been Mole behaviour.”
It’s getting to the point where I really want to see everything just come to an end, because this has been an obsessive season of The Mole. Mark may be the most prominent example, but everyone seems fixated on getting exemptions, on seeing various clues, etc. The game has become a constant search for ways to cheat the game, as opposed to ways to play it: the final four challenges were both strong and unique examples, but when it’s possible for one person to just leapfrog into the Final Three? It just doesn’t feel as natural.
So as we match towards the finale, I’m glad to see that the tricks are out the window (I hope), and it’s time to settle into answering the central question and enjoying what else the show has to offer.
July 14th, 2008
Yes, I am aware that I am nearly a week late writing this review, and as a result it will be fairly short. However, I want to note for the sake of posterity that I continue to be enjoying this season of The Mole. Yes, the ratings are extremely low, and based on comments at the recent TCA Press Tour the show won’t be returning to the air in the future. However, the season we’re getting has been one where the central mystery has stayed intact while the tasks have remained interesting.
I really enjoyed both tasks in the last episode, particularly the vineyard challenge wherein there were plenty of chances for both sabotage and just outright failure. It was great to see the challenge take on so many levels: how Nicole seemed to be slow in answering puzzles, how Craig only actually really solved one of them, how Paul messed up a few of his radio calls, how Mark had a great chance to NOT look like The Mole playing double duty while on the treadmill, etc. Yes, it was a bit of a cheap way to inflate the pot (Although Mark being on the treadmill for that long is very impressive), but it allowed us to focus less on the bickering (Although there was plenty) and more on the strategies.
June 23rd, 2008
As I become more and more convinced that I know who the Mole is, I’m also becoming convinced of something much more important: ratings be damned, this is turning into a great season of The Mole. And the main reason? Because my main suspect got booted from the game.
Now, it is not an unequivocally great season, don’t get me wrong: there are still some quirks here and there in terms of the quiz and interpersonal dynamics, but the one task in this episode focused solely on that conflict was either edited less dramatically or finally featured these players realizing that this game is actually probably a lot of fun.
And this episode was just that: the first task had numerous twists and turns, the journals were finally put into play, and while there’s plenty of drama with injuries and missing persons, it felt more like a show that plays mind games with its players as opposed to attempting to put them at each other’s throats. The result is perhaps the best episode yet, with a good story and a reason to keep watching – if only millions more were doing the same.
June 9th, 2008
Last week’s premiere of The Mole’s fifth season (if we’re counting the celebrity editions) was one of those episodes where you could see some growing pains, but beneath them was the core of the show we enjoyed before. There was the unique tasks that brought out the worst in the competitors, the wonderfully cheesy music, and a game that was more about the mind than anything else.
However, it’s not an easy sell for new viewers: I made a quick guest appearance on the /Filmcast last night, and guest GreatWhiteSnark (From his eponymous site) really didn’t understand all of the hype after last week’s episode. I tried my best to explain it, but it isn’t the easiest thing to do in thirty seconds and ABC.com’s synopsis is fairly useless. However, I stand by my assertion that as a mind game it rises above most reality shows, and that we’ll eventually get to that point.
What’s funny about this, the season’s second episode, is that it’s one step forward and one step back. While I am pleased to report that host Jon Kelley was much improved the second time around, especially with his voiceover work, the end-of-episode quiz was dumbed down to the point that it felt like the game was a mockery of its former self. While it might be the same on the surface, if this is seriously all they expect of these people they must not be a very smart group.
But we could have known that from the wheelbarrow.
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?
I loved The Mole.
It was a reality show that did a lot of things right, many of which I could list for hours on end (And that my Elder brother waxes nostalgic about in this old blog post, although the YouTube videos are dead), but there is one that needs to be highlighted: more than any other reality show, it made the viewer a part of the game.
When we watch Survivor, we are watching a social experiment from the outside looking in, judging these people based on a situation we can’t understand. When we watch The Amazing Race, we have the visual sensation of enjoying the sights and excursions but without the same sense of killer fatigue that has done in many racers. And, when we watch American Idol, we can vote as much as we wish but we will never have a deciding voice as part of the tens of millions of votes cast.
But watching The Mole, the viewer is a player in the show’s central game: discovering who, out of a group of 12 strangers, is the one hired by the network to sabotage their efforts to earn money for a group pot is something that the audience gets to enjoy just as its players do. Sure, we aren’t part of the games, and that ol’ “Parts not affecting the outcome were edited out” disclaimer means that we obviously don’t have the whole story, but at the end of the day the viewer is the 13th player in the game.
Perhaps its because my eating habits would keep my from surviving on Survivor and The Amazing Race, and that my voice is not quite good enough for a music competition series, but of all of my various non-options (Go Canada!) The Mole is the one reality show that I would actually want to participate in. And, after being seemingly canceled and seeing its host move on to a far shinier gig, Americans with my mindset have their chance: tomorrow night, June 2nd, The Mole returns to ABC.
And consider me cautiously optimistic.