At first glance, ABC's weekly, hour-long The Mole wasn't all that different from the many other reality shows of the era (the series debuted January 9, 2001). A group of ten diverse individuals were whisked off to various exotic locales in the U.S. and Europe, where they competed in physical and mental challenges, ranging from bungee jumping to trivia quizzes. On each episode, one of the contestants was eliminated (or, as it was defined on this series, "executed") until only one was left to collect a grand prize of up to one million dollars. The main difference here was that one of the contestants was a "mole," planted by the producers to undermine and sabotage the other players, escaping detection and exposure all the while. At the end of each episode, the remaining players took a quiz on what they thought were the "facts" about the mole, whose identity remained unknown throughout the competition; those who scored lowest were removed from the show. Three players remained on the last episode of each season, and by the rules of logic one of these had to be the mole. The "legitimate" player who correctly guessed the mole's identity won the grand prize -- which, if the mole had done his or her job well in the past episodes, had been considerably reduced from the original one million dollars via bribes and other financial giveaways.
Hosted during its first two seasons by future CNN news commentator Anderson Cooper, The Mole began its run with a contest involving ten players. Once this was over with and the winner collected 510,000 dollars, the series returned in the fall of 2001 for The Mole II: The Next Betrayal -- which went on hiatus after three episodes, due to a combination of bad ratings and the viewers' collective grief in the wake of 9/11. The Next Betrayal returned in May of 2002 to complete the game, with the winner earning 636,000 dollars. Season three was launched in January of 2003 as Celebrity Mole: Hawaii. Per its title, the contestants -- whittled down from ten to seven -- were all prominent media personalities, including actors Stephen Baldwin, Corbin Bernsen, Erik von Detten, Michael Boatman, and Kim Coles, comedienne Kathy Griffin, and supermodel Frederique. Ahmad Rashad took over as host for this and the series' subsequent season, titled Celebrity Mole: Yucatan, which was launched in January of 2004. Stephen Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen returned to the game, competing against the likes of Dennis Rodman, Angie Everhart, Mark Curry, Tracey Gold, Keshia Knight-Pulliam, and Ananda Lewis. The Mole was based on an Australian series of the same name, which debuted February 21, 2000. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Anderson Cooper, Ahmad Rashad, (more)