“The Mole”: How Real Is Reality TV?


Elizabeth Ippolito

Created By: Chris Culvenor

Hosted By: Alex Wagner

Rate: 4.5/5

“The Mole” has taken the world by storm these past few months as a rebooted version has been released on Netflix. The series originally aired on ABC running for 5 seasons from 2001-2008. The show returned in 2022 being streamed on Netflix and audiences went crazy over the show.

“The Mole” is a competition reality series in which ten people compete in challenges to add money to the cumulative prize pot that the last player standing receives at the end of the game. In each episode, players work together to complete the challenge. The twist is that one of them is assigned to be the mole, a player who sabotages the missions in plain sight. After each challenge, players take a quiz and lock in their answer as to who is the mole, and the player with the least amount of correct questions on the quiz gets eliminated. 

The show was fairly well received by audiences with a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 100% on the tomatometer. I loved the show. Even as someone who hates binge-watching culture, this show is one that you can’t look away from. The season has a fantastic cast of players who are strategic, likable, and hateable all at the same time. The show is set in Australia so the challenges take place in the most phenomenal landscapes. It is both mind-numbing and stimulating at the same time, which is not often seen in reality television, especially today. Every episode is a mind trip and makes you question who in fact you believe the mole to be. 

Reality television has changed drastically since it began and has kind of lost touch with its roots. Many people don’t know that it started in 1948 on ABC with a series called “Candid Camera.” This form of TV didn’t take off until the 1990s with shows like “The Real World”, “Big Brother,” “Survivor,” and “American Idol.” Shows like “The Real World” focus on a group of people who live together and their interpersonal relationships. While shows like “Big Brother” and “Survivor” still have this relationship-centered style but also have players strategizing, completing, and lying to win the grand prize at the end. There are also shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom” that follow a group of people that have something interesting about them. Whether it be crazy antics or family drama, the viewers want it all.

Today, you can find the largest number of reality TV shows on Netflix. With shows like “The Perfect Match,” “Too Hot to Handle,” “The Mole” and “The Circle,” Netflix is cranking out reality television series more than any other platform. But this raises the question of how real is reality TV? While I might be the first person to tell you or you might have known all along: reality TV is not real, shows are either scripted or have situations put in place to cause drama. While this isn’t as noticeable in shows like “Big Brother,” Netflix has no shame in making their shows look scripted. 

Netflix’s reality shows are very blatantly scripted, from the dialogue to every single shot you see in the show, it is predetermined. If you watch “Too Hot to Handle” side by side with “Jersey Shore,” it would look like two different genres. Netflix takes the cinematographic approach while companies like MTV and CBS have more of a “lesser quality, better content” approach. 

While it’s fine to still believe that reality TV is “real,” it has proven to negatively affect the mental health of its audiences. Audiences perceive the shows to be real which has led to anxiety and depression in viewers, comparing their lives to the ones that they perceive to be real on television. Aside from this, a study was conducted and took viewers of “The Real Housewives” franchise and monitored their behavior before and after watching the show. The study states, “The Real Housewives franchise participants behave aggressively, gossip, and deceive each other. There are bountiful episodes of catfights. Young viewers tend to imbibe this behavior and get aggressive. They forget to be kind and compassionate towards their friends and family.” This demonstrates that although the show seems to portray real people, viewers are being deceived by the concept that the show is real when it isn’t.

Overall, reality TV has revolutionized television and while it has come a far way from where it once started, there are still some great reality shows out there to binge-watch!