So, recently I've started a rewatch of all the Total Drama seasons in chronological order for a number of reasons. I need to get my TD fix during the offseason, to build up to the Ridonculous Race, and to see how my views may change on rewatch. I'm currently in the third quarter of Island right now, where the voting gets complicated (don't worry, I'm getting to the point) and I've come to a realization on rewatch.
You know how a lot of users tend to call Island the best season of the Total Drama series? How people wish the quality would return to that of the first season? Well, the simple answer is, you can't. It's not possible. In fact, you may as well call Island and it's sequels two separate shows.
Why? Well, let's look at the fact that the first season was heavily influenced off of Survivor, to a greater extent than any other season. EVERYTHING in Island was pretty much taken from Survivor, from the bonfire ceremony, to the supposed jury, to the characters (Owen is based off Richard Hatch, Bridgette is Colleen, Geoff is Greg, DJ is Gervase, Courtney is Stacey, and Chris McLean is almost just like Jeff Probst here).
Naturally, this makes Island a bit special. Some of you reading this may reason "Hey, why not just bring in more Survivor references then?," but the thing is, it wouldn't have the same effect as the first season, simply because it's the first. They've tried; after all, the TDA finale is a clear reference to the jury vote in Survivor, and like in the second season, the winner was revealed in front of a live audience (in the Aftermath studio). In TDWT, Chris reads the votes instead of passing out symbols of immunity. TDRI introduced the "McLean-Brand Chris Head," referencing the Hidden Immunity Idols in Survivor. TDAS had sending people to Boney Island, like Exile Island, and the All-Stars format is also something that was done in Survivor. TDPI had contestants entering the game with just the clothes on their backs, and they had to forage for food.
However, the reason it doesn't work in replicating Island is, there comes a time where a show has to form it's own identity. Survivor even faced this problem; if it didn't evolve into a game where there are alliances and scheming, the mere concept on it's own would have failed by the third season. Instead, after the innocence of the first season, strategy developed and the true game of Survivor began.
This is the same for Total Drama. If there's one thing I've noticed during my rewatch of Island, it's that the contestants are just getting used to the game. In fact, the only contestants that really speak about forming an alliance or voting people off are Heather and Duncan (later on). The priorities of most of the contestants were winning challenges or just having a good time (which in general is how the typical teen would approach it), like how people like Geoff for example were playing the game. However, over time, contestants began to get their head in the game a lot more, for example in Action a formerly passive player like Justin began to be more strategic. As he said in the TDA premiere, he was in it to win it. There are other factors too as Chris begins to develop his own TD character instead of basically just being a Jeff Probst expy. In a formerly innocent contest, the challenges get more dangerous and deadly, and the players are more cutthroat and conniving. That makes for good viewing in my opinion, because as I said before, that gives the Total Drama series as a whole it's own identity, rather than just a Survivor parody.
That's not to say I don't like the references when it does happen, it's a nice way to embrace the roots of Total Drama. I just think that for the reasons I stated above, you clearly can't revert back to the style of the first season that made that season work, because the first season of a show and subsequent seasons will inevitably be different as the show tries to find exactly what it can be. Total Drama is still Total Drama, and the characters are still here, but it's evolved in such a way that makes the first season unique, and it can never be replicated no matter what you try to do.