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Mountain or Mole Hill?

What happens when Survivor meets Road Rules? ABC is betting you'll want to know.

The Mole, ABC's first experiment in shameless replication of the CBS summer smash, is one of a new crop of reality programs populating primetime. The premise? Ten strangers assemble for an adventure of challenges and deception, but one of them is a saboteur working to foil the team's plans. The group maintains a cash jackpot which grows with the successful completion of missions. Every few days, the members are tested on their knowledge of "the mole," and the lowest scorer is "executed" (i.e. removed from the game). In the end, the winner and the mole remain, and the former takes home the team's winnings.

Sound familiar? It should. The Mole borrows heavily from MTV's Road Rules, which features team challenges and collective compensation. The periodic "executions" and demographically friendly casting are courtesy of Survivor's successful formula. But is The Mole worth a second look?

ABC's contribution offers something new, an anonymous traitor. Reminiscent of the nefarious antics of Richard Hatch, The Mole's appeal rests in the uncertain identity of its antagonist. The vibe? Trust no one.

But originality stops there. Anderson Cooper fits quite nicely into Jeff Probst's hosting shoes, and the predictable tension among the group members invokes memories of Pulau Tiga. Even the "characters" are copycats. Remember Ramona, the assertive young black biochemist? Meet Afi, her med-school incarnation. And who can forget poor Sonja, Survivor's first victim? Certainly not Kate, her middle-aged doppelganger.

The verdict: Why settle for second best? Survivor's Australian followup debuts after the Super Bowl. Plan your Outback party now, and don't invite The Mole.


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