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Archive for Tuesday, December 12, 2000

ABC tests reality TV’s durability with ‘The Mole’

December 12, 2000

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— "The Mole" is ready to burrow its way into ABC's schedule.

The reality TV series, which will premiere Jan. 9, follows 10 contestants in a worldwide competition for a prize of up to $1 million. The twist: There's a saboteur or mole trying to thwart them, and fingering the person is part of the game.

"The Mole," with former ABC News correspondent Anderson Cooper as host, is ABC's attempt to match the ratings glory of CBS's "Survivor."

The possibility it might be a "Big Brother"-style flop instead was dismissed by an ABC executive.

"We believe in the format," said Andrea Wong, senior vice president for alternative series and specials. "We had the time to edit the shows together to make compelling drama, and we have a great cast."

Filming has been completed on the nine episodes and the network is keeping mum about the players' identities. Wong would say only that they are a diverse group, split between men and women, ethnic groups and ranging in age from 20s to 60s.

The mole was picked from among the contestants. The competition took place in four countries over two continents; those locations also are secret for now.

"The Mole" seems akin to "Survivor," which pitted players against each other in various challenges. Contestants on the ABC show face physical and psychological tests while attempting to unearth the mole's identity.

Players are ejected from the game for failing to glean details about the mole. The winner is the one who has learned the most about the saboteur.

ABC is giving the program a strong launching pad. It will air in the 7 p.m. Tuesday time slot now held by "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," which will move to 7 p.m. Friday.

"Millionaire" has been losing steam with viewers, but remains a ratings leader for ABC. The show will probably kick start its Friday lineup, which includes the sitcoms "Norm" and "Two Guys and a Girl."

Regis Philbin's quiz show will bump the Friday shows "Madigan Men," which goes on hiatus, and the new series "Dot Comedy." The latter, a new reality Internet comedy show, is slated to return, while the fate of "Madigan Men" is uncertain.

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