Dawson's Creek is an American television soap opera aimed at teenagers that aired from 1998 to 2003. The show was set in a small Massachusetts town and focused on four friends who began their sophomore year of high school as the show began. The program was a defining show for its network, The WB, and made stars of its leads. It was part of a craze for teen-themed movies and television shows in America in the late 1990s.
Origins and Reaction
Kevin Williamson, a native of the small coastal town of Oriental, North Carolina, was approached in 1995 by producer Paul Stupin to write a pilot for a television series. Stupin, who as a Fox Network executive had brought Beverly Hills, 90210 to the air, sought out Williamson after having read his script for the slasher film Scream, a knowing, witty work about high school students. Initially offered to Fox, the network turned it down but The WB was eager, looking for programming to fill its new Tuesday night lineup. Williamson said "I pitched it as Some Kind of Wonderful, meets Pump Up the Volume, meets James at 15, meets My So-Called Life, meets Little House on the Prairie". The show's lead character, Dawson Leery, was Williamson's doppleganger: obsessed with movies and platonically sharing his bed with the girl down the creek.
The show proved controversial even before it aired. Consumer products giant Procter and Gamble, which was a co-producer through its Procter and Gamble Productions subsidiary, the maker of day-time soaps such as Guiding Light, sold its interest in the show three months before the premiere when the company's hometown newspapers, The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Cincinnati Post, printed stories about the racy dialogue and risque plot lines. The Enquirer's television columnist, John Kieswetter, would write "As much as I want to love the show--the cool kids, charming New England setting, and stunning cinematography--I can't get past the consuming preoccupation with sex, sex, sex." How preoccupied was it? Syndicated columnist John Leo, who said the show should be called "When Parents Cringe," wrote "The first episode contains a good deal of chatter about breasts, genitalia, masturbation, and penis size. Then the title and credits come on and the story begins." The Washington Posts Tom Shales said creator Kevin Williamson was "the most overrated wunderkind in Hollywood" and "what he's brilliant at is pandering." Williamson denied this was his intention, telling television critics before the show's premiere that "I never set out to make something provocative and racy."
The Parents Television Council, the group founded by L. Brent Bozell to monitor television for sex, violence, and coarse language, proclaimed the show the single worst program of the 1997-1998 season, a title the Council would also award it for the 1998-1999 season. The Council would proclaim it the fourth worst show in 2000-2001. However, on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, the National Organization for Women offered an endorsement, saying it was one of the least sexually exploitive shows on the air.
But for every scathing review, there was a glowing one. Variety wrote it was "an addictive drama with considerable heart," "the teenage equivalent of a Woody Allen movie--a kind of 'Deconstructing Puberty.'" The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said it was "a teen's dream." The Dayton Daily News listed Capeside as a television town they'd most like to live in. The Seattle Times declared it the best show of the 1997-1998 season.
The New York Times had perhaps the best headline on its review: "Young, Handsome, and Clueless in Peyton Place." That was precisely the sort of allusion real teenagers weren't likely to get, let alone make, but the show's punchy dialogue was full of them. Dawson calls his mother's co-anchor "Ted Baxter" and refers to his parents as "Rob and Laura Petrie." He responds to his principal's request for a film glorifying the football team as belonging to "the Leni Riefenstahl approach to filmmaking." Jen says her parents followed "the Ho Chi Minh school of parenting." The verbiage was high-flying too: star Michelle Williams confessed in interviews she had to consult her dictionary when she read the scripts.
The witty scripts were filled with memorable dialogue. In the fourth season finale Dawson tells Joey, "I didn't plan on graduating a virgin." Joey replies "The best-laid plans . . . " Jen declares "Don't knock sullen and introspective. Those can be two very sexy qualities." Dawson, excited over a Godard film asks "How can you not like a movie where the fake name on the guy's passport is Laszlo Kovacs?"
The show, while never a huge ratings success among the general population, did very well with younger audiences and became a defining show for the WB Network. (The first season's highest ranked episode was the finale, which was fifty-ninth, while the highest rated was the second episode, scoring so well only because there was no programming on the other networks, which were carrying President Clinton's state of the union address in the midst of the Lewinsky scandal.)
Dawson's Creek's ultimate impact was far broader than the Nielsens would imply, alluded to in such disparate places as Jim Borgman's comic strip "Zits", a Maureen Dowd column about the Republican leadership of Congress, and the film 10 Things I Hate About You. It made stars of its leads and now seems ripe for the kind of academic analysis its former lead-in Buffy the Vampire Slayer has already been subjected to.
Set in the fictional Massachusetts seaside town of Capeside, the show began during the sophomore year of Dawson Leery, Pacey Witter, and Joey Potter, three lifelong friends and Capesiders, who were joined in the pilot by Jen Lindley. All were fifteen.
Dawson was a dreamy romantic obsessed with movies, especially those of Steven Spielberg. His parents were Mitch and Gale, an Emmy-winning anchor on the local t.v. news. Tomboy Joey, named for Jo in Little Women, had always been in love with Dawson, even if she denied it and he was oblivious to her adoration. For years, she'd been climbing in his bedroom window and platonically sharing his bed. She lived down the creek from Dawson and took a rowboat to visit him. Joey's mother was dead from cancer and her father, Mike, was in prison for drug dealing. Her harried and very pregnant sister, Bessie, who was about ten years older than Joey, was raising her while running the Ice House restaraunt, where Joey worked as a waitress. Pacey was best friends with Dawson and engaged in playful love-hate banter with Joey. Pacey, youngest of five, was his family's great disappointment and they never tired of reminding him of it. His dad was Capeside's police chief and his brother, Doug, was a cop. Pacey incessantly urged Doug to come out of a closet Doug vehemently denied being in.
Jen's parents, unable or unwilling to do anything with their out-of-control daughter--she'd begun having sex at twelve and the last straw was her being caught in flagrante delicto in her parents' bed--had exiled her from New York City to live with her rather forbidding and deeply religious maternal grandmother, Evelyn Ryan, a retired nurse her granddaughter called "Grams". (Ostensibly she was sent to Capeside to help her grandmother care for her bed-ridden grandfather, who was only seen asleep and would die late in the season.) Jen and Grams lived next door to Dawson. Smitten at first sight, Dawson wooed Jen to Joey's consternation. Dawson was shocked to learn of Jen's past, not knowing what to think. Another blow came when Dawson discovered his mother was having an affair with her co-anchor. She and Mitch would ineffectually try to reconcile, eventually divorcing in the second season.
Bessie had her baby in the Leery's living room, delivered by Mrs. Ryan, who disapproved of Bessie's not being married to the child's father, Bodie. (The boy would be named Alexander.) To Pacey's utter astonishment, his English teacher Miss Jacobs took him up on his lewd suggestions and they began a torrid affair. When word leaked out about it, in order to save her reputation (not to mention to avoid prison), Pacey told the authorities it was all fiction, merely adoloscent braggadacio that got completely out of hand.
The second season brought Dawson and Joey together, but their dating lasted all of six episodes. There were two new students at Capeside, twins Jack and Andie McPhee. Their mother had never recovered from the death of their brother Tim (shades of Ordinary People) and was delusional, carrying on conversations with him. Their father was usually out of town and distant from his children. Andie was an extremely perky ultra-competitive straight-A student who somehow clicked with slacker Pacey. They dated and became lovers. Jack dated Joey for a time until he realized he was gay. This, Mrs. McPhee's mental problems, and Andie's renewed instability spurred their father to swoop in and move the family to Providence, but Jack refused.
Mitch became a teacher at Capeside High as he and Gail tried to figure out how or whether to try to rebuild their marriage. At the end of the season Gale moved to Philadelphia to take a news job there.
Jen, who had tried to make a fresh start in Capeside, returned to her old sullen ways. She hung out with the thoroughly evil Abby Morgan, who brought out Jen's inner bitch. When Abby died--while drunk she fell off a pier--Jen delivered at Abby's church funeral a hateful diatribe against religion designed to irritate her grandmother. Jen found herself kicked out, Mrs. Ryan throwing up her hands. However, Grams almost immediately regretted the decision and, in the season finale, after Jen had lived with the Leerys and the McPhees, she welcomed Jen back--as well as a now homeless Jack.
Joey's father, Mike, was paroled after three years in prison and returned a changed man it seemed. He had ambitious plans of expanding the Ice House, making a life for himself, and getting to know his daughters better. But he soon fell back on his old ways. His competitors in the drug trade threw a Molotov cocktail into the Ice House and the building was a total loss. Dawson had seen one of Mike's deals and told Joey. Hating herself for it, she let Chief Witter talk her into wearing a wire to entrap her father. After her father's arrest, Joey told Dawson she could never forgive him for taking her father away again.
The third season opened with Dawson returning from spending the summer with his mother in Philadelphia and on the bus found himself enchanted by the sort of woman the phrase "cherchez la femme" was created for. The temptress--Eve was her apt name--would astonish Dawson with her interest in him as Eve was a pornographic fantasy come to life. She had no past, no friends, no family, nothing but an interest in bedding Dawson, which never came to pass, however. She would exit Capeside mysteriously and would be revealed as Jen's half-sister, born when Jen's mother was her age. Joey realized she hadn't meant what she said about Dawson and offered herself to him but after he spurned her advances they tried being just friends again. As the season progressed, Joey became friendly with Pacey.
While in a mental hospital, Andie had slept with another patient. Pacey, who had stood by Andie in the previous season as her mental state deteriorated, was deeply unsettled by this development and ended their relationship. Capeside High got a new principal, the no-nonsense Mr. Green, who replaced a succession of rarely seen administrators. He brought a daughter who, like Dawson, was a filmmaker.
To her horror, Jen found herself not only a cheerleader but the head cheerleader. Even worse, she found herself the object of the affections of a shy, moony-eyed freshman footballer, Henry. They cautiously began dating. Mitch expanded his duties at school to include coaching the hapless football team, the Minutemen. Gale, fired from her new job in Philadelphia, returned to Capeside and reconciled with Mitch. They opened a restaurant, Leery's Fresh Fish, and remarried in the season finale. Bessie and Joey turned their home into a B&B, fulfilling the dream of their late mother.
The fourth season, the gang's senior year at Capeside High, opened with Joey and Pacey returning from a summer-long cruise down the Eastern Seaboard on Pacey's boat, the True Love, spent quite platonically despite the close quarters. Pacey's hitherto unseen sister Gretchen returned to town, got a job at Leery's, and started dating the bosses' son.
Joey worked as a waitress at the Capeside Yacht Club under the bitchy Mrs. Valentine, the manager, and with her unpleasant son Drue. When Joey and Pacey began to date, Dawson was filled with hate and jealousy and tried to cause his former friend to wreck his sailboat in a charity race. Pacey, Dawson, and Jack would get even with the perfidious Drue by framing him for their senior prank--they put the principal's sailboat in the school's indoor pool. Dawson and Pacey finally reconciled after he rescued Pacey and Jen from a storm at sea. To do so, he stole and damaged a boat belonging to crotchety old Mr. Brooks. Dawson did chores for Mr. Brooks to work off his debt and discovered that Mr. Brooks had been a film noir director in Hollywood in the 1950s. Eventually the old man warmed to Dawson and they collaborated on a documentary about his life. When Mr. Brooks died of pancreatic cancer, he left money for Dawson to go to USC Film School.
Andie, having more than enough credits to graduate, did so half-way through her senior year so she could stay with her aunt in Italy. Though she had plans to attend Harvard University in the fall, she would be seen only a few times more during the series. Gale found herself pregnant in her forties and had a daughter, Lillian, named for Joey's mother. Jack, again falling out with his father over his homosexuality, moved in with Jen and Grams, who had mellowed quite considerably from the first season.
On the senior ski trip, Joey and Pacey at long last consummated their relationship. But Pacey soon allowed himself to be consumed with self-doubt. Why would such a pretty, talented, and intelligent girl be dating me? he asked himself. He became a sullen and did everything he could to ruin a good thing, culminating in a terrible scene at the prom. They too parted.
The fifth season moved the show to Boston where Joey was attending elite Worthington University (something akin to Harvard), while Jack and Jen were attending a community college, Boston Bay. They still lived with Grams, however, she having sold her house and moved as well. Jack began dating Toby, who he met at a gay activism meeting. They would kiss--supposedly the first romantic kiss between two men in prime-time. (Critics did not applaud this milestone. Entertainment Weekly said the kiss was "typical of Dawson's this season, a thundering dud.") Pacey was working in the kitchen of an upscale eatery, Civilization, under owner and chef Danny Brecher. When he sold out, the new owners appointed a martinet of a manager who so alienated the staff they walked out en masse, leading to the manager's dismissal and the shuttering of the restaurant.
Dawson began the season on his first day as a production assistant on a film directed by Todd Carr, a nasty Brit who quickly fired him. Completely disillusioned, Dawson quit film school and returned to Capeside, where his parents were disappointed in him for giving up so easily. Dawson's father was killed in an automobile wreck after a big fight with his son. Dawson discovered a film school in Boston and enrolled, making a film with overeager, oblivious, and obtuse fellow student Oliver Chirkchick that starred Charlie, Jen's latest former boyfriend, and Audrey Liddell, Joey's party-girl roommate at Worthington. Dawson and Jen became lovers, but she began trying to ruin things.
The final season found Dawson in Boston shooting a horror film with Todd and carrying on an affair with the leading lady, Natasha Kelly. When Todd quit, the producers hired Dawson to finish the film. He then pitched a film of his own, an autobiographical coming of age story, but the sleazy producer (Paul Gleason) was only interested in making it into a teen sex comedy in the vein of American Pie. Dawson, wanting to be true to himself, decided that was not for him.
Pacey got a job as a stockbroker under the oleaginous Rich Rinaldi and soon was sporting stylish clothes, driving a fancy car, and throwing money around. Pacey and Jack moved in with Emma Jones, an English lass who was a barmaid and offered Joey a chance to return to waitressing. She took it and soon became the lover of Eddie Dooling, who was the bartender where Joey worked and was in Joey's literature class. It was taught by Greg Hetson, who looked too young to be a professor or to be the father of a headstrong teenage daughter, Harley. Joey babysat her. Joey and Eddie had an on-again, off-again relationship, but he eventually left town. Audrey, not liking the man Pacey had become under Rich's tutelage, dropped him and picked up the bottle. She was to land in rehab in Los Angeles, her hometown.
Mrs. Ryan informed Jen that she had breast cancer. Jen persuaded her to move to New York City and live with her and Jen's mother, now divorced, to be close to the hospital and to try to reconcile their long-standing familial differences. Jack would come with them.
The two-part series finale, titled "All Good Things . . . Must Come to An End," was set five years into the future. Joey was a book editor in New York. Dawson was in Los Angeles as creator and executive producer of a teen soap, "The Creek," where the triangle was not Dawson-Joey-Pacey but Colby-Sam-Petey. Jen was a single mother with an infant, still living in New York with Grams. Jack had returned to Capeside to teach high school English and was now Doug's lover--though Doug was still in the closet. Pacey was proprietor of the reopened The Ice House. The gang reunited in Capeside to attend Gale's wedding and at the reception Jen collapsed Her friends learned she had a congenital heart defect, incurable. As they awaited her death, they all reminisced about their friendship and Jen arranged for Jack to adopt her baby. As for the triangle, Joey and Dawson reconciled to the fact that while they may be soulmates, it would never work. Dawson returned to California and his show, while Pacey followed Joey to New York.
Dawson's Creek premiered in the U.S. on January 20, 1998 on The WB Network, Tuesdays at 9 P.M. Beginning with the second season in the fall of 1998, it moved to Wednesdays at 8 P.M. for the remainder of the run. Six seasons, totalling 128 episodes, were produced. The two-hour finale aired on May 14, 2003, was repeated on May 28, and the series then left The WB schedule. The cable network TBS began weekday reruns on March 31, 2003.
The show also aired in numerous international markets, listed here with the premiere dates: Brazil, March 3, 1998; the United Kingdom, May 2, 1998; Israel, September 1, 1998; Sweden, September 11, 1998; Switzerland, December 27, 1998; Germany, January 3, 1999; Italy, January 3, 1999; France, January 10, 1999; Australia, January 19, 1999; Romania, February 28, 1999; New Zealand, June 25, 1999; Hungary, September 11, 1999; Spain, 2000; and Portugal, April 8, 2001.
These actors were credited in the main titles for every season.
- Gale Leery, Dawson's mother--Mary-Margaret Humes
- Mitch Leery, Dawson's father--John Wesley Shipp
- Bessie Potter, Joey's older sister--Nina Repeta
- Mike Potter, Joey and Bessie's father--Gareth Williams
- Bodie Wells, Bessie's lover--Obi Ndefo
- Doug Witter, Pacey's older brother--Dylan Neal
- Gretchen Witter, Pacey's older sister--Sasha Alexander
- Tamara Jacobs, Capeside High teacher--Leann Hunley
- Andrea "Andie" McPhee, a new student at Capeside--Meredith Monroe
- Jack McPhee, Andie's brother, also new to Capeside--Kerr Smith
- Mr. (Will/Joseph) McPhee, Andie and Jack's father--David Dukes
- Abby Morgan, a Capeside student--Monica Keena
- Mr. (Ray) Peterson, Capeside English teacher--Edmund J. Kearney
- Eve, a mysterious new woman in Capeside--Brittany Daniel
- Mr. Green, Capeside High's new principal--Obba Babatunde
- Mrs. Valentine, Capeside Yacht Club manager--Carolyn Hennesy
- Drue Valentine, her son--Mark Matkevich
- Henry Parker, freshman football player--Michael Pitt
- Arthur (A.I.) Brooks--Harve Presnell
- Professor David Wilder, Joey's English professor--Ken Marino
- Audrey Liddell, Joey's college roomate--Busy Philipps
- Todd Carr, movie director--Hal Ozsan
- Danny Brecher, chef--Ian Kahn
- Oliver Chirkchick, film student--Jordan Bridges
- Charlie Todd, Jen's boyfriend--Chad Michael Murray
- Eddie Dooling, Joey's lover--Oliver Hudson
- C.J., Jen's lover--Jensen Ackles
- Emma Jones, Pacey and Jack's roomate--Megan Gray
- Rich Rinaldi, Pacey's boss--Dana Ashbrook
- Professor Greg Hetson, another of Joey's English professors--Roger Howarth
- Harley Hetson, his daughter--Mika Boorem
Notable guest stars included Andy Griffith, Pat Hingle, Paul Gleason, Bianca Lawson, Lawrence Pressman, Rachael Leigh Cook, Nicole Bilderback, Alan Fudge, Julie Bowen, Jonathan Lipnicki, Scott Foley, Jason Behr, Jack Osbourne, Eion Bailey, Ali Larter, Eric Balfour, Madchen Amick, Mimi Rogers, K Callan, Marla Gibbs, Jaime Bergman, Mercedes McNab, and Harry Shearer.
Filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, at EUE Screen Gems Studios and on location around Wilmington. College scenes in the fifth and sixth seasons shot at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and additional shooting was done in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Created by Kevin Williamson.
Produced by Columbia Tri-Star Television, Outerbanks Entertainment, Granville Productions, and Procter and Gamble Productions.
Executive produced by Kevin Williamson, Paul Stupin, Charles Rosin, Deborah Joy LeVine, Jon Harmon Feldman, Alex Gansa, Greg Berlanti, Tom Kapinos, Gina Fattore, Jeffrey Stepakoff.
Episodes produced by Dana Baratta, Greg Berlanti, Janice Cooke-Leonard, Alan Cross, Zack Estrin, Gina Fattore, Jon Harmon Feldman, Maggie Friedman, Darin Goldberg, David Blake Hartley, Tom Kapinos,Drew Matich, Chris Levinson, Paul Marks, Drew Matich, Shelley Meals, Rina Mimoun, Steve Miner, Gregory Prange, Jed Seidel, David Semel, Cynthia Stegner, Jeffrey Stepakoff, Dale Williams, Mike White
Episodes written by Dana Baratta, Greg Berlanti, Hadley Davis, Gina Fattore, Anna Fricke, Maggie Friedman, Alex Gansa, Diego García Gutiérrez, Liz Garcia, Laura Glasser, Holly Henderson, Tom Kapinos, Rina Mimoun, Jason M. Palmer, Jed Seidel, Jeffrey Stepakoff, Liz Tigelaar, Mike White, and Kevin Williamson
Episodes directed by Lou Antonio, Allan Arkush, John Behring Sanford Bookstaver, Arvin Brown, Jan Eliasberg, Michael Fields, Rodman Flender, Morgan J. Freeman , Dennie Gordon, Bruce Seth Green, Joshua Jackson, Joanna Kerns, Peter B. Kowalski, Perry Lang, Michael Lange, Nick Marck, Melanie Mayron, Robert Duncan McNeill, Steve Miner, Jason Moore, Joe Napolitano, Patrick R. Norris, Scott Paulin, David Petrarca, Gregory Prange, Krishna Rao, Steven Robman, Bethany Rooney, Arlene Sanford, David Semel, Kerr Smith, Sandy Smolan, Lev L. Spiro, David Straiton, Jay Tobias, Jesús Salvador Treviño, Michael Toshiyuki Uno, and James Whitmore Jr.
The theme song, "I Don't Wanna Wait" was written and performed by Paula Cole. For the first season, international broadcasts used "Run Like Mad", performed by Jann Arden, but switched to Cole's song for the remainder of the run. Additional scoring was written by Adam Fields.
Only one thorough book has been published about the show, Darren Crosdale's Dawson's Creek: The Official Companion (Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews McMeel, 1999), which only covers events through the end of the second season. Andy Mangels's From Scream to Dawson's Creek: An Unauthorized Take on the Phenomenal Career of Kevin Williamson (Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 2000) covers the show well.
- The only character to appear in every one of the 128 episodes was Joey Potter (Katie Holmes).
- The Ice House restaurant burned at the end of the second season because the owners of the location used for filming did not wish to continue their association with the show--thus the building was written out of the program.
- Actress Meredith Monroe (Andie McPhee) shot scenes to be used in the series finale but they were not used because of time constraints.
- There was an incredible spike in the popularity of the name "Dawson" after the show premiered. According to the Social Security Administration, the name was the 744th most popular boys name in 1997 but lept to 198th in 1998 and 136th in 1999. It has since dropped to 204th in 2003.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License at http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html
You may copy and modify it as long as the entire work (including additions) remains under this license.
You must provide a link to http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html
To view or edit this article at Wikipedia go to http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawson's_Creek