Hi, everyone. Before I get into the review, I'd like to start with some background on myself because I'm probably unknown to most of the wiki's users by now. I was an admin on here at the start of the wiki, and played a large role in its initial success. As time passed, I got involved less with my online persona and more into what I was doing in my real life, extracurricular activities and whatnot. When I joined the wiki I was in eighth grade, and in a few weeks my second year of college will begin.
I started watching Total Drama when The Big Sleep aired in America. I watched Total Drama Action when it aired (in those weird six episode increments - those of you who were on the wiki the probably remember) and then Total Drama World Tour when it leaked in Australia. I tried watching Total Drama Revenge of the Island, but after a few episodes, I couldn't bring myself to continue. I did not enjoy it, and did not feel invested enough in the series to continue. I did not even attempt to watch Total Drama All-Stars, because of it featuring so many characters I did not like. I had no intention to watch Total Drama: Pahkitew Island either, but when it started airing, I heard that it was really good, and the best season since the first season. So I gave it a shot, watching episodes on YouTube, and occasionally telling others what I thought. I suggested that I might just write a blog to collect all my thoughts in, and I was encouraged to do so by some of the other users, so here it is. I don't know how organized this will be, but I hope you enjoy it.
Right off the bat, this season had a really high number of gag characters. I barely even remember the characters from last season, but I think that this season really struggled with creating human characters. Nearly everyone is cartoonishly out of proportion, and not in a good way. I recognize that this show isn't aimed at my demographic, and if they've found success with their target audience they should keep doing what they're doing, but as someone who watched the show from the start, the characters mostly did nothing for me.
These characters were - pardon the pun - cannon fodder.
I fully understand that for a kids' show like this, it actually makes a lot of sense to have a throwaway character like Beardo as the first boot. Kids probably really enjoy the simplified, easy to understand characters like this. I will always maintain that Ezekiel was a bad first boot for Total Drama Island and could have made for an interesting character to talk about gender roles and sexism in teenager society. I find it hard to argue though that any of these contestants' time on the show was cut short. So a throwaway character like Beardo who just adds another funky design and gets the more interesting ones through the first episode is excusable.
The only one I'd even claim could have been better with more episodes is Leonard, but I admit that he'd probably have also gone overboard had he stayed. Total Drama has always had throwaway characters, extras, people to fill spaces in the cast to fill an episode quota. The first season was chock full of them, and in a 22 person cast, of course some of them will be there just to fill a spot. But with a small cast like this and a 13 episode season, I wish we'd gotten more of the complex characters like Gwen, Duncan, Heather. Of course, most of the characters who were complex in the first season (Leshawna, Geoff, DJ) were simplified in later seasons. I've always been of the opinion that because Total Drama Island was written as a solid 26 episode season with no future planned, it is the strongest season, and I still think so. So again, having a gag character like Leonard only last a few episodes is fine, as long as it allows us to have other characters to root for, like Gwen's and Duncan's.
However, with so many of the contestants being no more than a schtick, it's hard to root for them for many episodes. I'd say the same thing goes with Amy and Samey, they were characters that lasted as long as they needed to. With the exaggerated evil and good twin, it's hard to want it to end with a real reconciliation and story of two siblings learning to get along. They just don't have enough episodes for a lengthy and meaningful story arc like that, so they do what they have to do. Samey gets revenge on her mean sister, we're all happy.
Another thing I take away from TDPI is the lack of character interactions which, again, I chalk up to not enough screen time. Total Drama Island characters had multiple friends, who they were close with to varying degrees. Gwen and Trent were a couple but they were friends with DJ, Owen, Cody, Leshawna, they hated Heather, etc. Duncan had loads of friends and enemies, each well established. Even Heather had friends. This season we just had a lot of pairs, Sky an Dave, Amy and Samey, Jasmine and Shawn, Max and Scarlett, Topher and Chris, Sugar and Ella for a while. Very few of the characters got to interact with multiple people. Sure, Jasmine and Samey got along and Rodney had his girls, but it felt severely lacking. Again though, I understand that with 13 episodes, it's more important to establish a few big relationships.
There's not really much to say about Rodney. He lasted longer than he needed to and filled a space.
Ella was one of my early favorites. She was a great parody of the Disney princess character, and I think she actually had an interesting arc with her prince. I'd have liked to see Dave and Sky just become friends and Dave and Ella date, that could have been cute. No, Ella was not terribly complex, but she filled her role well. She, like Leonard, could have been less interesting if kept longer.
I guess the disappointing thing with Ella is that around the time of her boot, she had the thing with Dave beginning, and that could have made a good story arc. Everyone expects Dave and Sky to end up together, but Dave meets somebody else and they fall for each other. I don't think this show has done that before.
Topher has the same problem as many other characters, as he only exists to serve as a foil to Chris, but I can't help but appreciate him and his dynamic with the host. If he'd been fleshed out a little to interact with others, I wouldn't mind him going farther in his attempt to replace Chris, that could have even been worked in with the Scarlett Fever plot. He's another one who I would categorize as gone too early, but with the direction they were taking with him, he went at a good time.
I will give Topher a lot of points for bringing us even more Chris McLean, who was absolutely incredible this season. By the end of the show, Chris McLean was the only character I found myself still invested in. He was hilarious, the rhyming intros were fun. I am a theatre student. I'm not a huge musical theatre fan, but if you are going to do one, you need to have a certain level of ham and cheese in your performance. And it's pretty clear that Chris replaced Chef, because he brought lots of ham and cheese to his performance this season.
It is at this point in the season where everyone (minus the incredible Max) had overstayed their welcome. Dave, the normal guy, was really great in the first few episodes. One of the oldest ways to write comedy is to have one completely normal character having to deal with the insanity of another character. Having a character for the audience to sympathize with makes us feel more when we see them in different situations. When Heather kisses Trent, we feel bad for Gwen and Trent because they've been so human and real, we feel that what Heather did really was bad. To use another example, some people think The Big Bang Theory works, and the reason it's funny is because we understand the struggle of Penny and, at times, Leonard, when dealing Sheldon. So seeing Dave deal with... a different Leonard... it's funny because we get how annoying that must be! When Dave's sole purpose on the show is to date a girl and he gets rejected... we can't really feel bad for him. The whole Dave and Sky situation is hard to care about at all though because Sky is a generic "empowered woman" who makes it to the final two. She's just there to fill the spot of female role model for the viewers, so she's not a fun character. I don't think they wrote her well though. Gwen was strong and fun to root for, Sky was just preachy and there. So when things went south for Dave, it was uncomfortable more than anything else.
Scarlett was an interesting character. She is somewhat ruined now in the sense that she can never return and be normal Scarlett again, she has to go in as crazed super villain Scarlett, but I still enjoyed her. It's hard to have much to say about her without talking about my favorite contestant, Max, so let's get to him.
What works about Max is that as much as he is a caricature of a villain, he's just bumbling and harmless enough that is' funny. He wears a lab coat, has a pig nose, and speaks in some sort of accent. He's hilarious. His relationship with Scarlett is really funny too, and he's just incredibly well written.
But the funniest thing about Max isn't that he's bumbling.
It isn't his inventions.
It isn't his relationship with Scarlett.
The funniest thing about Max isn't even something they show or reference on the show.
The funniest thing about Max is this: Max is a 16 year old boy who thinks he's a super villain. He dresses like one, he speaks like one. He even has purple hair! Wait a second, though. People don't have purple hair. So that must mean...
He dyes his hair purple.
Before Max goes on this show, this chubby kid sits in his home and dyes his hair purple because he thinks it adds to his image. Just think about that for a second. Max chuckles to himself and mumbles about his latest ne'er-do-well deed, and does this this.
This season had a wholly unremarkable final four. Jasmine was another strong female character, but there was no more to her than that. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather have a Jasmine who can handle herself than a Bridgette who is just there to be a pretty love interest, but I also want a more complex female character who doesn't have to be strong all the time, who can break down and feel. The accent was good though, and reminded me of a certain old user from here who I used to skype with. Jasmine just came across as so generic, though her pairing with Shawn was alright. If Shawn had gotten developed beyond his fear of zombies and maybe into more of a general wild-man, survivalist type, he could have been interesting. Again, 26 episodes could have helped these two.
I suppose last and, well, I suppose not least, would be Sugar. Sugar is such a strange villain for the show in that she's totally unlike any other villain. Heather and Courtney were very typical conniving reality show villains, Alejandro and Justin basically served the same weak role as villain (Though if you're not Team Justin, you can sit down, mmmmkay?) but Sugar is a villain for a totally different kind of villain. She's part Owen, part Heather, and a parody of Honey Booboo (who I find to be a totally endearing human being whose family is being taken advantage of by a corporation, but they seem like good people). She's another character who stays much longer than she needs to, and her style of gross-out humor doesn't appeal to me, but it's interesting that they portrayed a female character in this role, whereas I think most shows would put a male in this role.
Anyway, I'll attempt to summarize my thoughts by saying: Scuba Bear was cool.
Really though, this season started off really well, but with the shortened season and exaggerated characters, it lost its charm. If they did a season featuring TDPI characters, TDI characters, and, I suppose, a few TDRI characters, I bet it would be watchable. I know seasons 2 and 3 felt long due to so many non-elimination episodes, but if they were well written, they were so worth it.
Thank you for reading, if you'd like to respond to anything I've said here, I'd be happy to read it. I'm not bothering to proofread this, because I'm a college student and I proofread enough anyway, so pardon any errors.
Enjoy the rest of your summer.