Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Summer's here, as evidence by the sudden blossoming of B- and C-grade reality shows. (Who among us can't wait for Celebrity Circus or I Survived a Japanese Game Show?) Among the returning "favorites" is The Mole, a show that should be more fun than it is.
But because the better shows have packed up for the season and the warmer months demand less thought, we tune in anyway.
Mole Season Five gets off to a poor start with its new yawner of a host, John Kelley, formerly of Extra. (During season 37 of The Mole, we'll be telling our grandkids how President Anderson Cooper used to host this show.) Right off the bat, Kelley mangles some Spanish names -- we're diggin' for mole, for some reason, in Chile.
We meet our 12 contestants (ohmigod, one of them is the mole!), the usual assortment of Reality Players: a handful of indistinguishable sorts, with a few easily identifiable characters to help us start caring -- old lady, jolly chubster, diva bitch. The first episode also heavily pimps Marci the Mom and Paul the Blue-Collar Loudmouth. My eye is caught by Kristen who is tall, beautiful, blonde, "a natural athlete" and a neuroscientist. (Add it up, and it equals: the fifth Cylon.)
A zip-line stunt over a waterfall is less scary than it first appears (and hence, less entertaining), though Big Craig muffs the challenge and ends up with El Gigante Wedgie for his troubles. Keeper line from this segment came from Alex, listed as a "musician": "As a performer, I'm good on my feet."
After some fake drama involving who sleeps in the cabin, we're off to challenge No. 2, a scavenger hunt in which our woefully dumb-ass players search a beach for items that a noted castaway would have had in 1704. Frankly, I'm torn between thinking that the producers rig this segment so viewers at home feel super-smart, or that the contestants really are stupid enough to think Victrolas and blue jeans were18th-century consumer items. Things to ponder in my Mole Journal.
The last part of the show is the tedious "Who is the Mole?" quiz and results. This is where I think the show misses opportunities. One, what's the point of showing us the quiz when we can't possible "play along at home"? So many questions rely on you having been there or having processed info over time. Thus, two: Why not construct the show better so that we really do get clues? Mostly, The Mole excels in delivering obvious red herrings. Give us real clues -- the old Ellery Queen Mysteries show used to do this: You knew as much as the detective; could you put it together? And three -- for the love of ground-dwelling, half-blind mammals, can you speed up the Execution?! Don't show us everybody's test scores in slow-motion -- just tell us who's going home.
Well, I can only hope once the back-biting begins in earnest, The Mole will pick up a bit. At the very least, fewer contestants means shorter executions. And I'll leave you with this awesome malapropism from Blue-Collar Paul about Marci's potential to be the Mole: "I'm heads and tails on her."