Ken Tucker
February 06, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Mole

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Reality TV

We gave it a D

The only way ABC could make The Mole any duller would be to turn it into a series about the beauty mark on Cindy Crawford’s face. As it is, the show — about a group of ordinary folks among whom exists what host Anderson Cooper calls ”a saboteur, a traitor” — possesses about as much suspense as Crawford’s 1995 Billy Baldwin ”thriller” ”Fair Game.” In fact, ”The Mole” — a Belgian import, Americanized — is not a fair game. Because the show has been edited to within an inch of its life, it’s impossible, even after weeks of watching, to figure out the rules.

The contestants are flown to Europe — places like France and Spain, which Cooper actually said was ”renowned for its bullfights and beautiful beaches” — and commanded to do things like wash each other’s laundry in a (tee hee) town so primitive, there aren’t any Laundromats! If the group succeeds in its jingoistic stunts, thousands of dollars are thrown into a pot to be given to the winner when the show ends its nine week run.

Where ”Temptation Island” is creepy cheesy, ”The Mole” tries for some ’60s idea of cool: not ”Austin Powers” ironic, but ”Our Man Flint” campy — there’s ”Mission: Impossible” style music, and Cooper utters most of his lines with a halting, pointlessly ominous severity: ”I think you’ll find Steven is rather, well, uncomfortable.” I kid Cooper — he’s obviously an intelligent egg; heck, compared with ”Island”’s smarmy dummy host, Mark L. Walberg, he’s Laurence freakin’ Olivier.

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