12 days of reality: Four seasons of The Mole

The Mole is one of the best reality competitions that has ever aired. It had the right combination of everything. From Anderson Cooper’s dry yet extremely personal hosting–he had dinner with the players!–to the challenges that perfectly combined physical and mental tasks to the conceit of having one player working for the producers, it was an extraordinary series, and thus the perfect thing to celebrate as part of the 12 Days of Reality TV.

Yes, I realize that there were five seasons: Two regular, hosted by Anderson; two celebrity, hosted by Ahmad Rashad; and one reboot, hosted by Jon Kelley. I am going to pretend season three/five of the regular series didn’t exist rather than just wait until tomorrow to celebrate all five seasons. The 2008 season pretty much sucked, and is a perfect example of what we do too often: We are so nostalgic for the past that we’d rather dig up a corpse and prop it up at the dinner table than just remember the person as they were when they were alive. I’ve made this argument before, so I’ll move on. The celebrity versions were somewhat diminished versions of the original, but they became their own thing, and are worthy of celebrating.

The best part about The Mole is that it lives on in DVD form, although only the first season and the Kathy Griffin celebrity season. The soundtrack, too, is available (and you can even download it on iTunes).

I was going to try to break down what I loved about it even further, but I’d rather just re-watch it than analyze what makes it so great. Just watching this clip below, which is from episode two, I got chills, because everything about the show works. Everything. Long live The Mole.

The 12 Days of Reality TV (introduction)

  1. Richard Hatch it a tree
  2. Two dog bites in the vagina
  3. Three people fighting on Real World, and “it wasn’t not funny”
  4. Four seasons of The Mole
  5. Five golden vetoes
  6. Six Deadliest Catch seasons
  7. Charla and Mirna race around the world
  8. Joe Millionaire’s slurps, Joe Schmo’s schmo
  9. Bands running on VH1’s Bands on the Run give birth to Magical Elves
  10. Osbournes ham-throwing
  11. Regifting 11 years of reality blurred end-of-year recaps
  12. 12 reader suggestions, from Erik giving up immunity to The Real World’s Pedro

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.