Third real season of The Mole debuts tonight

After being off the air for more than four years, The Mole returns tonight with its third non-celebrity edition. It debuts at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, and features new host Jon Kelley presides over a game that is fundamentally the same: players complete challenges to earn money while trying to learn the identity of the person who is working against them. The player who knows the least about the mole each week, as determined by a quiz, gets “executed.”

As psyched as I am for its return, I’m worried about how my nostalgia for the original will affect my perception of the new one, like whether or not Jon Kelley can fill Anderson Cooper’s role. But I’m more concerned about the simplified format that ABC said the show iwll adopt, because it’s not exactly like the previous format was so dense and complicated that it required a PhD to understand what was happening.

One change, as detailed in USA TODAY, seems completely benign: The quiz is now 10 questions, not 25, and those will all be about things we’ve seen on TV. Executive producer Clay Newbill says, “In the past, some of the questions would be about things you wouldn’t have been able to learn unless you were there on location or one of the players,” and that “really ups the play-along ability for viewers at home.”

In addition, the first episode will have a lot of explanation about how the game works. Executive producer Scott Stone said, “We’re expecting a lot of new viewers, which is why we took great pains, particularly in Episode 1, to produce it with the novice viewer in mind.”

The show was resuscitated as the result of “a different regime here and different priorities, and (ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson) was willing to give it another shot,” ABC exec John Saade told USA TODAY. “It’s the one show that people always ask about. People are already playing the game now based just on the promos and a little bit that’s on the website.”

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