"The Mole" has come out of hiding.
ABC has given a 10-episode order to Stone & Co. Entertainment ("Tim Gunn's Guide to Style") to revive the reality competish, which hasn't aired in four years.
Casting and pre-production have begun on the show, which will likely start shooting later this spring. ABC is looking to run "The Mole" this summer.
"This is a show we honestly love and people ask us about all the time," said ABC Entertainment alternative series senior VP John Saade, who added that plans were afoot to dig out "The Mole" even before the writers' strike.
"We were looking to bring the show back even when the writers were working," he said.
The first two editions of "The Mole," which aired in 2001 and 2002, earned ABC's top marks among adult 18-34 auds in both of those years. ABC then ran two seasons of "Celebrity Mole," in midseason 2003 and 2004.
Stone Stanley Prods., which produced all four "Mole" segs, dissolved in 2004. But principal Scott Stone said he kept a fire burning for the show, and has been looking to revive it under his new shingle for years.
"It was just about getting the timing right," Stone said.
The hiccup: Rights to "The Mole" had reverted back to Belgium company TTTI, which owns the format. Stone, who's repped by WMA, finally managed to close a new deal to license the show two months ago.
"If anyone asks me what my favorite show has been, I've answered 'The Mole,'" Stone said. "Not surprisingly, this has been a passion of mine since the option lapsed three or four years ago. In my staff meeting every week, people would say, 'Don't even bring it up.' I kept throwing it out that it was eventually going to be the right time. And it perennially ends up on lists of people's favorite reality shows. That kept the fires burning inside me."
The revived "Mole" will revert back to the original format, sans celebs.
Show features contestants traveling across a foreign country completing tasks and solving puzzles in order to add money to the winner's pot. At the same time, they're trying to figure out which of their competitors is actually "The Mole" -- a player planted to sabotage the game and limit the money won.
At the end of each episode, players take a quiz; lowest-score sends someone packing. Person who's left standing alongside the Mole wins the money pot -- which could be as much as $1 million, but ultimately came to $510,000 in season one and $636,000 in season two.
Stone said the new version has been simplified, but said he hasn't "dumbed it down."
"We simplified it to where the people at home can play along," he said. "And the quiz will be much shorter than in the past."
Anderson Cooper, who hosted the first two editions, remains at CNN and isn't available to host; Ahmad Rashad, who hosted the celeb editions, hasn't been asked to return. Stone said he's scouting for a host in Cooper's vein.
"We're looking for someone in the Anderson mode, a little mysterious but full of comedy," he said. "It could be a breakout role for someone."
"Celebrity Mole" won an Emmy in 2004 for Outstanding Achievement in Enhanced Television.