The original ABC version of The Mole, with Anderson Cooper as host, is coming to Netflix on Monday. This is quite exciting, because it remains one of reality TV’s best competitions—and because, while season one is on DVD, as is season three—its other seasons have not been available.
On Netflix, the annoying auto-playing preview is the first few minutes of season 1, episode 1—with the players gathered on a road in the Mojave Desert before their skydiving task—and is very much in grainy standard definition. So that season is definitely coming. But which seasons will be available beyond season 1? And why is it coming to Netflix now? Here’s what we know.
Netflix’s page for The Mole says “seasons coming Monday,” and I take that plural to mean that they’ll be adding at least two seasons. (I’ve reached out to Netflix to try to find out exactly what that means.) The cast section lists only Anderson Cooper, and he hosted only seasons one and two. After that, the show became Celebrity Mole, when it was hosted by Ahmad Rashad, and then it switched hosts again when it was revived. So far, five seasons have aired:
- The Mole, hosted by Anderson Cooper (2001)
- The Mole: The Next Betrayal, hosted by Anderson Cooper (2002)
- Celebrity Mole: Hawaii, hosted by Ahmad Rashad (2003)
- Celebrity Mole: Yucatán, hosted by Ahmad Rashad (2004)
- The Mole season 5, hosted by Jon Kelley (2008)
Netflix’s reach means that many people will have access to the show, whether they’re anxious to rewatch or they’ve never seen it, which is a distinct possibility since the original season premiered 20 years ago, in early 2001. It’s likely that its presence on Netflix will result in renewed and new interest; when Netflix added two seasons of Survivor last fall, many people found it who hadn’t watched previously, even though it’s one of the highest-rated broadcast TV shows and had been on the air for 20 years and 40 seasons.
Why is The Mole coming to Netflix now?
The most obvious answer to the Why now? question is that an a new American version of The Mole is filming in Australia this summer: It’s called The Insider, at least during casting, and its format is identical to The Mole’s. It is so identical it just is The Mole. Casting notices did not specify a network or streaming platform, however, nor give any idea about when it would actually air.
However, The Insider is most definitely being produced for Netflix, as the casting company’s website confirms: “‘Insider’ NETFLIX, Eureka Productions.”
Netflix has clearly been producing its own versions of shows that have been successful on its platform, including food competitions and real estate porn reality TV. But The Insider is already in production, filming sometime between June and August, so this is not a case of Netflix seeing a show’s popularity and then deciding to create its own version—or revive the original. Netflix reality competitions tend to be filmed far ahead of their actual airdate—this show, for example, filmed one year before it aired—so the timing is interesting to consider.
Could this just be a strategy to build interest in the return of The Mole? Most definitely. At the same time, it could just be about making money (for whoever holds the rights to the show) and getting viewers (for Netflix, who’s licensing it). CBS obviously did that with Survivor, MTV has done it with two seasons of The Challenge, and PBS sold streaming rights of The Great British Baking Show to Netflix—before completely losing the show to Netflix.
I’ll update this story as we learn more. For now, prepare yourself to re-visit or discover a truly excellent and innovative reality TV competition.
Updated June 17 with confirmation that The Insider is being produced for Netflix.