Talk about a big money question: Can The Mole's equation of 10 contestants plus $1 million equal Survivor-like numbers? ABC certainly hopes so, especially since its crown jewel — Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? — has lost some of its ratings luster this past season. But producers insist that The Mole — premiering Tuesday at 8 pm/ET — is not just another Survivor clone.
"I think the show will have its own life," Mole executive producer Scott Stone tells TV Guide Online. "This show appeals to a slightly different audience, [those] interested more in mysteries than reality shows, which are basically popularity contests."
The Mole follows ten contestants — ranging from a 63-year-old retired New York City cop to a 23-year-old medical school applicant with "nasty gas" — as they try to complete a series of mental and physical challenges. After each test, money gets placed into a communal pot for the eventual winner. One of the players, however, is a snake in the grass — a "mole" — whose job it is to prevent the rest of the group from winning the wheel of fortune.
At the end of each one-hour episode, the group will be quizzed about the identity of the spoiler. The lowest-scoring player, or the one who doesn't know Jack about the saboteur, will be booted off the show. The mole will be revealed during the ninth and final episode, and the remaining contestant can win up to $1 million. "In the last episode," Stone explains, "we go back and reveal what The Mole did — much like how they did it in The Sixth Sense.
Over the course of the show's production, the contestants and a 176-member crew traveled to two continents, four countries and 34 cities. They stayed in 65 different hotels, covered over 15,000 miles, and used 16 modes of transportation, including planes, helicopters, buses, vans, boats, motorcycles and horses. All this begs the question: How much does it cost to put something like this together? "That's a trade secret," smiles Stone. "Let's just say we used all the money they gave us. I would like to dispel the rumor that reality shows are cheaper to make. This was extremely expensive."
Hosting The Mole will be Anderson Cooper, a former ABC news correspondent. "Anderson has all the right personality traits as well as the credentials to make the show work," says Stone. "He did not know who the mole was until the very end, so he was playing along with the contestants. That shows on his face sometimes, and it's terrific. Unlike the hosts of some of the other reality programs, he really was a part of the show."
Bottom line: Why should you watch The Mole? "Because I need to put food on the table," laughs Stone. "Seriously, I think it's an addictive show. People will find characters that they love and hate, but they'll want to play along to guess the mole's identity, as opposed to watching to see who wins or loses. I'm proud of it — we've got something really special here."