After my scathing reviews of the last two episodes, I wouldn't be surprised if you Total Drama fans have some choice words for me. Fair enough, I have no doubt I came across as bitter and haughty, but don't get me wrong; I may be critical, but I'm not condemning the entire series. No, maybe it's just blind optimism, but after watching episode 1 of "World Tour," I'm actually rather hopeful.
During Season 2, "Total Drama" experienced somewhat of an identity crisis, and suffered because it tired to be something it's not. In our world, reality TV is the junk food of the entertainment industry; it's cheap to make, and sets off the brain's pleasure sensors without providing any real substance. In the TDI-verse, they wanted us to believe otherwise, that Total Drama Action was the biggest thing since Pokemon, and that reality TV was the magic elixir that kept the economy of Canada alive. Perhaps it's because I'm too jaded to suspend disbelief, but Total Drama Action failed to convince me that even the simpleminded populace of a cartoon world could be captivated by such an unsophisticated spectacle.
That is what I liked about this episode; we get frequent jabs from Chef and the contestants, even a little self-deprecation from Chris, about how ridiculous the premise is, and how tawdry the third season will be. If they know what they're doing, the writers will rely on "So bad it's good" humor to see them through. One place where the Total Drama series frequently stumbles is when it forgets that it's an ensemble show. Episodes that give one or two characters the majority of the screentime are often the weakest points. Nothing against the writing skills, but few of the characters are dimensional enough to carry an episode all by themselves. That's why it's nice to see episodes like this, where no one seems neglected, pushed to the side, or insignificant. It was also nice to see last season's winner Duncan disappear almost immediately, assuring us that the same character won't be the focal point for two seasons straight.
The ensemble itself has its ups and downs. I was skeptical at first about how much they could do with Alejandro, but having him target girls in relationships was a brave move, and it'll be interesting to see how that will unfold. Cody, Noah, and Tyler are also welcome additions to the cast; I personally thought that the sideline commentators in TDA were dreadfully underused. Not so welcome is Ezekiel, who barely got any screentime the first time around, and now returns with an incredibly grating new persona, to the point where I wanted him to get eliminated first again. Also tiring is loud and rambunctious Leshawna, who's so perfect that they couldn't even think of a good way to eliminate her, and Harold, who does little more then spout pieces of trivia and fall down. Fingers crossed that those characters take the drop of shame soon.
Pleasantly surprising was the musical number. It may not have been on the same level as "Glee," but they found the right median of quality; it wasn't so bad that it wreaked havoc on my eardrums, nor so good that it defied suspension of disbelief. I'm sure that the singing and the comedic gags I praise so highly will go stale and become repetitive in a few episodes, but we'll deal with that when we come to it. The season opener was a pleasant experience, no reason we can't enjoy it while it lasts.