The cast of The Mole 2013

The cast of The Mole 2013

As a fan of the original series of The Mole I was desperately excited to hear Seven were bringing it back. The challenges, the contestants seemingly bewildered, the chaos of an undermining mole. It was a smart and inventive series the first time out and could easily find an audience in a modern 16-channel realm.

To say it’s not working is an understatement.

Buried at the “all new” timeslot of 10:30pm Wednesday night The Mole is lucky to draw more than a couple of hundred thousand viewers – a very small return for a show that will have cost the Network millions. But where did they go wrong? How did Seven murder The Mole?

Stripping the show into multiple nights.
While it’s all the rage for reality TV to run four, five, even six nights a week expecting an audience to tune in three nights a week for a show that’s new to a lot of viewers is a big ask. While also it’s important to introduce all 12 contestants and maintain an air of intrigue (after all, who is the Mole?) dragging out the first elimination until the end of the THIRD episode simply caused viewers to straight out not care.

By ep 4 it was really only fans of the genre hanging in and Seven knew it, so the timeslot shuffling started and still hasn’t stopped. The worst part for the network is the entire thing is filmed and ready to go, so it would be a monumental effort to re-edit it down to single episode eliminations… and would people even watch it then? Burying it late at night is a worse admission of guilt than shunting it over to 7TWO or 7mate where at a reasonable hour it *might* garner an audience. There’s no chance of that where it is.

Not eliminating one contestant per episode.
A well crafted episode of The Mole ebbs and flows, offers its own hints and deceptions, throws out misleads and fact as to who the Mole may be – then it wraps it all up nicely with a quiz and the tense elimination of a contestant. Stretching that elimination to once every three or every other ep doesn’t retain the tension and drama that fans seek. Being left hanging knowing there’s still more challenges to come (some of which have been quite lame and some quite good) isn’t exactly a great hook.

There’s no better feeling than seeing a contestant get eliminated (or, as they’ve opted to call it in this series, “terminated”) that you knew wasn’t the Mole giving you the satisfaction of narrowing your pool of likely suspects. In addition the eliminations were pretty underwhelming – when this is meant to be one of the key moments of the show and it seems like a sea of confusion somebody measured this seriously wrong.

“Culture Clash”.
This angle was dropped quicker than a hot chip in the middle of summer (and rightly so). The premise was to be that the casting would be so diverse in race, ethnicity and opinion that the contestants themselves would provide an additional spark through their interactions and arguments. Nobody really wants to see a racist, bigoted white Australian male win and that could have well been the case.

Perhaps sensibility prevailed or perhaps the contestants all got on too well that the tagline vanished without so much of a whimper. Whatever the reason the casting is pretty good despite many who are hanging in claiming to have picked who the Mole is after but a handful of eps. We’ll find out soon enough if they’re right.

Putting Shura in a straightjacket.
Appointing Shura Taft as the host was, in my opinion, a pretty smart move. He’s an edgy host with some great experience with live TV and can deliver on script where need be with aplomb. He’s personable and likeable to boot… so whoever produced him into this closed, measured, overly calm and entirely bland host needs a second lobotomy.

Of course he has to work with the script and help tie all the leads together, asking probing questions and the like. Making Taft come across as painfully smug was a really bad idea (Note: not making him go the full Tom Williams was the only smart move they made in this regard).

Failing to connect (and then maintain a connection) with fans.
Signs your big-budget show hasn’t worked out quite how you wanted:

  1. The show is no longer listed 1n the Network’s roster of shows anymore.
  2. The Facebook page is only updated with rudimentary information and feeble attempts at starting a conversation.
  3. The twitter account that was being updated by whoever is the Mole is now reduced to updating when the show *might* air.
  4. The website stopped being updated after only four or five episodes.

Sure, it may be pushed to nosebleed o’clock but that’s no reason to stop engaging with the few viewers you have left. Hell maybe the effort would even draw some back in?

The biggest sin (kindly pointed out to me by massive fan of the series The Grim Recapper) is that the design of the website is so lazy that it’s actually pretty easy to work out who wins just from the way the homepage is built. Given the kind of audience this show attracts making it this simple to narrow down the winner just using this method is holding the audience in contempt… and perhaps therein lies the complete problem with how this series has been “masterminded”.

The return of The Mole could have been a success. That it’s not? Such is life in the business of television.