After 'Survivor,' is 'The Mole' next?

It's always something. At the moment on TV, that something is "Survivor."

That's just how popular culture works. With the CBS hype machine humming, and with the news media eagerly looking for something "hot" to talk about, millions of Americans have clicked on "Survivor," a hybrid that's part game show, part extreme sports challenge, part soap opera - with a dash of "Gilligan's Island."

A cynic might be reminded of P.T. Barnum's adage that "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." But others see the show as harmless fun, maybe even a fascinating social experiment.

Meanwhile, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" having lost its title as biggest, baddest, hottest show around (beaten head-to-head by "Survivor"), hopes audiences remain dazzled by its flashing lights and easy questions - not to mention Regis Philbin's slick monochromatic outfits - so that it can anchor ABC's fall season.

"Survivor" is sure to be back after this 13-week run in a new location with new participants. In the interim CBS's "Big Brother" will test our interest in peering into the lives of a group of contestants locked in a house together.

On the horizon is "The Mole," a Belgian reality show that the Hollywood Reporter says has already been sold in 40 countries. As in "Survivor," contestants must work together to accomplish goals and win money. The sinister twist:

One participant is a "mole," planted to sabotage the team. Each week, the contestant with the least clue as to the mole's identity is eliminated.

Who needs actors when these "real" lives fascinate? Or are these really "real" experiences? Or can we easily draw that line anymore?

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