So! We're here celebrating Total Drama's 10th anniversary, whoooop! I recently rewatched all 5.2+1 seasons of Total Drama, and I was thinking about which is the strongest and weakest point in each of them. I'm not going to talk about which season is the best or the worst, I think that everyone have their own opinion in that matter. I'm just simply going to point out where the seasons succeed and where they fail. AND! Keep in mind! This is completely subjective so you may agree with some things and completeley disagree with some other things.
Okay, now that all of that is clear, let's start our journey, starting by...
Total Drama Island
The Best: The Original Cast
I think that most fans agree in that the original cast is the best cast. It may be for nostalgia or because it was the most "close to the earth" cast we've got, with few inspired/parody characters (you know, characters like Jo, Dawn or Ella being parodies of already existing characters from other media). Here, we've got the typical characters from any teen TV show: characters like the loner, the geek, the bad boy, the sistah, the queen bee, the funny fat guy, the cool dude, the cool gal, the brainless beauty... were nothing new, that's true. You probably are able to think about a character that can be defined by those words from other TV shows, books or whatever. But what Total Drama did do and other shows didn't was make them interact in a very satisfying way. They were charismatic and funny, but something important to keep in mind is the fact that they were in a competition against each other made everything that much interesting. Also, the fact that they were camping, like most of us have done in a our teen years, made everything very relatable. Mmm... I wonder if this same cast would work in a TV show that takes place in a high school. Who knows.
The Worst: The Inconsistencies
There's one scene in particular that I will always remember because it made me cringe so much when I saw it. It was in the episode No Pain, No Game, when Eva and Izzy came back and Chris decided to torture the contestants even more by making them do some horrible challenges. At some point in the episode, Trent says something to Gwen and she, for some reason, is suddenly angry at him because of what happened EIGHT episodes ago!! Yeah, I understand that Gwen would be angry at him because of what happened (he did forget about her when she was buried alive, so...). But, why oh why, would she mention it eight episodes later, after having friendly interactions with him in the previous episodes.
And that's not the only inconsistency: why was Izzy suddenly part of Heather's alliance? And only for ONE scene, mind you, where Izzy did absolutely nothing. What was the point of that??? And why would Duncan think, all of a sudden, that it was Heather who tampered with the votes in order to eliminate Courtney? Yeah, it's nothing too hard to believe, but please oh please show us how he came to that conclusion and why he completely forgot about that after that episode. Why was Eva so angry at Bridgette for saying that she should take some anger management classes when it was Courtney who said something like that? And the list goes on. Some times it was pretty clear that this season needed more work in some aspects, and the characterization and consistency of the characters was one of those aspects.
Total Drama Action
The Best: The Theme
I don't know if a lot of people will agree with me on this, but I really liked the idea behind this season. Centering each episode about a movie genre was genius and it gave us some very good episodes: Get a Clue!, The SandWitch Project, The Princess Pride, Super Hero-ld... Yeah, this season have some very good episodes. The challenges felt so different but at the same time so similar to those of Island... To me, there's no doubt, they made some good thinking when it came to the challenges in this season. It's true that some of them were kinda lame, even if the idea behidn them was pretty interesting (the spy themed episode comes to mind), but when they got it right, they got it SO right.
The Worst: It's Boring
Total Drama Action has a lot of problems, it's true. Again, like in Island, there are a lot of inconsistencies. Some characters feel like they are being written by people who don't know t hem at all and some become completely unlikeable. But, for me, the worst problem this season has is that... it's boring. Simply that.
This season introduced the reward challenges. After an elimination episode, the next would feature a reward challenge, where no contestant would be eliminated. So, half of the season is in fact filler that brings nothing to the competition. Yeah, it's useful to give the characters more screen time and let them shine, but remember the fact that this season features a rather small cast. And as they were being eliminated, the last few reward challenges were soooo boring to watch, because they featured characters that had a complete season to shine and that didn't have anything else to give us at that point. Maybe if they had some different characters to interact with... But that was not the case, they interacted with the same characters they interacted with at the beginning. Crouching Courtney, Hidden Owen is one of the worst episodes, in my humble opinion, in Total Drama history because of this exact problem.
Is this a bad season? I don't think so, because the elimination episodes were as interesting as in the previous season. But the filler episodes make this one of the hardest seasons to rewatch.
Total Drama: World Tour
The Best: The Drama
I really like this season because of how it played with the contestants. This was the first season that was actually quite dramatic. Case in point: Team Victory's complete obliteration. Seeing some of our favorite contestants get kicked out at the very beginning because of Alejandro's antics made most of us get caught up in all the drama. Harold's sacrifice, Bridgette's infidelity, Leshawna's oblivious interest in the hispanic guy...
And when Team Victory was reduced to nothing, the other two teams still had a lot to offer. The love triangle, Heather and Alejandro's rivalry, Sierra's obsession with Cody and even Blaineley's brief stay on the show. All was made to give us the viewers some delicious drama. Yeah, this had its own problems: the second half of the season (at least up until Gwen's elimination) reduced the humorous aspect to the minimun in order to make room for more and more drama, so some episodes are in fact quite boring. And also, because of that drama, some characters start to become a little unlikeable. Case in point...
The Worst: Duncan
Yeah, I won't make this pretty: I don't like Duncan. I liked him a lot back in Island, but after Action and World Tour I grew so tired of him... And yes, World Tour was a lot worse because of him. He became so, so, soooo unlikeable, even if he had no Harold to bully. And this is not only because of the love triangle, but all of his interactions with the other contestants, including Owen, made him quite unlikeable.
Most people agree on this: the 10 episodes without him are a breath of fresh air. But then he gets back and, as the Creator's pet that he is, he makes it up to the fifth place. Whyyyyyy lord, why meeee. Also, I didn't like the misogynistic undertones behind all the "it was Gwen's fault, and not Duncan's" extravaganzza with the love triangle. Call me mainstream, call me whatever you want, I know that saying that the love triangle (and Duncan in particular) weren't actually that bad is so hip these days, but this plot was so, so poorly written that it hurts me.
Total Drama: Revenge of the Island
The Best: A Breath of Fresh AirTotal Drama needed a change. The original cast needed some quality time before being back for another season. We needed some new characters. And so, we got Revenge of the Island. 13 new contestants, Wawanakwa Island turning in a toxic dump, everything felt so different. Of course, the writers made the same old mistakes but oh well, they got a new hat!
Anyway, I think that Revenge of the Island was necessary. The characters were quirky but funny, the new plots and interactions were actually rahter interesting and the challenges had some very original ideas behind them. In the end, I really like Revenge of the Island because of what it brought to the table, even if in my opinion this was an actually very weak season.
The Worst: The MeannessWhen the first eliminated contestant ends up with no hair after her elimination because of no particular reason but a quick laugh I understood how Total Drama's humour was changing. It all started with the Gollum jokes in World Tour, but Revenge of the Island made every aspect of this more evident.
The Dakotazoid plot, for example. A lot of fans felt so bad when Dakota turned into a monster because of no reason at all (because I don't think that most people found it funny). Or, for example, Scott's karma was quite dark in comparison to Heather losing her hair and Courtney getting her face sprayed with ink.
And the characters, God, they are quite dark themselves: Staci being a compulsive liar, Mike and his alternate personalities, Scott's tendency to backstabbing everyone he meets... And what about Chris? He borders in psychopathy tendencies in this season (and he only gets worse!!!).
I actually like dark jokes and mean humour, but this season it felt so unnecessary at times, so "let's be mean for the sake of being cool and edgie".
Total Drama: All-Stars
The Best: The IdeaThis season was such a missed opportunity. The idea behind it was what all
Another very interesting idea: the challenges. Mixing old challenges was a great idea. The very first challenge is one of the funniest that I remember in recent Total Drama history. Heck, the very few first episodes are soooo great because all of this that I mentionned: the good cast, the good idea, the good challenges... All of this was a missed opportunity when later episodes started to do some weird things. But I have to be fair, and the idea behind this season was brilliant.
The Worst: The OOC-nnessThe problem this season has is that the characters are kinda... off. They don't seem to be themselves at some points. I've talked about this a lot: Heather making stupid decisions only to get rid of her early, Duncan suddenly becoming an unwilling nice guy (these people have watched World Tour???), Jo repeating the same mistakes that got her eliminated in the previous season, Sierra's obsession with Cody getting creepier and flanderized, Zoey being completely oblivious to Mal's anticts when she proved to be a rather intelligent girl last time...
Courtney also gets completely out of character, forgiving Gwen and becoming a better person (Courtney??? Are you alright??) only to discover a few episodes later that she was only faking it to win (ah, that's better).
In the end, what this season did was turn all the characters that we loved in unlikeable jerks or more stupid versions of themselves. Better luck next season, guys... if you ever appear again.
Total Drama: Pahkitew Island
The Best: The HumourThis season was so, so much better in this regard than Revenge of the Island. Yeah, we gotta admit that this season was actually very weird. The cast was weird, the island was weird, even Chris was pretty weird (and pretty mean). But oh my God was it funny. Max, Sugar, Scarlett, Shawn, Ella, Leonard, Dave... They all had a lot of great moments that made me I laugh like a child. Heck, even Topher and Rodney (two very annoying guys) had a few moments where I actually laughed a lot. Epic can quote you some very good moments from this season that make me chuckle every time I read them.
But that created a whole new problem: it's hard to take this season seriously. Previous seasons made a better balance between laugh moments and drama moments. This season completely favours the former and ignores the latter, and the season ends up being more cartoony than usual. But, the humour as it is, was brilliant this season.
The Worst: The Quirky CastPlease, don't hit me!! I'll explain myself!!
I really, really like this cast. Yeah, it has some very annoying characters, it's true, but they were so weird that it made it very enjoyable to watch. So, what's the problem then?
Weeell, for starters, this cast is a little over the top. Back in the first generation, we had some quirky characters like Izzy, Eva or Ezekiel. Characters that were weird but that had a realistic characterization. Ezekiel was a misogynist and had some social interaction issues, but that's because he was home-schooled by some misogynistic folks. Eva was rather difficult to work with and it was easy to get on her nerves, but that was because of her anger management problems. Izzy was cooky and weird, but... well, she was nuts. Probably because she hit her head? I don't know.
But this cast? They are nuts and that's it. There's no characterization behind them. Why does Leonard think that he's a wizard? Why is Amy so mean to Samey? Why is Topher so interested in getting Chris' job? Why is Shawn so afraid of a possible zombie outbreak? We don't know and we never will, because the characters had no work on them. They had a quirk and they stick to it up until the very end.
Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race
The Best: The CastBoy do I love this cast. It was big and with a lot of new and interesting characters. Yeah, we have some old faces like Owen, Noah and *shivers* Leonard, but we also have a lot of new faces. It's true that some of them feel rather similar to previous cast members: Kitty is like a less dumb version of Lindsay (with the same voice actress!), Ellody looks like a carbon copy of Courtney (with the same voice actress!) and they had no problem in changing a bit Chris' desing to create one of the tennis rivals (sorry, I don't remember which one). But we also had some brilliant additions: the Goths, so funny and charismatic that I can't believe that they don't have their own spin-off; Dwayne and Dwayne Jr., so brilliantly developped during their stay in the race; and how could I forget about the two stars of the show: Jacques and Josee. The brilliant villains that we deserved.
It's a very homogeneous cast, with a lot of great newcomers, but... Oh well. Here we go...
The Worst: The Cast
You are probably making the same face as Sadie's at this point. So, the best thing is the cast but it's also the worst thing?? How can that work??
Well, because the cast had its good and its bad points. And for me, the worst thing about the cast is how they created a lot of interesting characters to use them as filler. Simply filler.
Let's see who are the first eliminated couples: Leonard and Tammy, only created to be filler (it has to be hard to be Leonard); What's-His-Face and The-Other-Guy, the tennis rivals, funny but forgetteable; Mary and Ellody, Courtney's clon and Harold's female version that only talks in her elimination episode... Well, so far not bad, huh? But then we have the Vegans, where the writers show how mean they can really be (why does everyone hate vegans so much?); the Fashion Bloggers, fan favorites that could add so much to the show; Mother and Daughter, for some people annoying as hell, for others (myself included) so damn funny that it was a shame to say goodbye to them after only a few episodes... And the list goes on. I understand that the show's setting makes it difficult to develop all the characters, but oh God it was hard to say goodbye to some characters when less interesting ones got to stay.
Another problem: the non-talking illness. It's a very grave condition that renders unable to speak certain characters for some episodes. Yeah, the writers got to balance (a bit) the number of episodes each character stayed silent, so some episodes focused on a few teams and some others focused on a few others. But in some cases it was not balanced at all, and some teams were out of focus more often than others. Yeah, there are some teams which are in fact more important than the others, but if they are going to stay for 26 episodes, make the episodes where the soon-to-be-eliminated teams are in focus more on these soon-to-be-eliminated teams.