Keeping Track of Characters: The Controlled Chaos of Total Drama
By: Justin Cummings
Many shows have large ensemble casts: The Simpsons, Adventure Time, and The Amazing World of Gumball just to name a few. Few shows however can compete with what has been accomplished by the Total Drama series in just five seasons. Okay five and a spinoff (and technically five is in two separate halves that even have different titles) but nonetheless the sheer size of the cast is remarkable. So I want to look at the unique circumstances that let Total Drama have such a wide cast, and the good and bad that have come from this.
For those who don’t know, the Total Drama franchise began back in 2008 with Total Drama Island, an animated reality show in the style of Survivor, with twenty-two contestants competing for a hundred-thousand dollars. The show actually has to make each character real and give them the potential to win, so even though some characters leave the show very early in the season, they still garner lots of fan support. In season two, Total Drama Action, the show took fifteen of the original contestants and had them in a new competition, building on what we saw from them in the first. The third season was similar, although in addition to fifteen returning contestants it added three brand new ones. In four and the back half of five, thirteen and fourteen new contestants were added respectively, with the first half of season five featuring fourteen returning contestants. The spin off had four returning contestants and a whopping thirty-two new ones. As you can see this has allowed the show to introduce tons of new characters all of whom could equally return in future seasons. Even characters who are only in two episodes are just as much contestants and valid considerations for future seasons meaning no one is truly a minor character.
So what bad can come from this? First off it means some characters get forgotten in favor of others, and that in any given season only a certain number of characters can get a long story arc. For instance Noah was eliminated early in season one, and halfway through season two, while Duncan made it to the final five of the first three seasons. That leads to the second problem, a small group of characters keep getting long runs season after season. Owen, Duncan, Heather, and Courtney for instance. The good side of this situation though is we get dedicated fans that care about a variety of characters, and if the show wants to it can dive in very deep to its characters. Who knows where the show will go from here, but wherever it does it will be unique.