One thing I’m realizing during this particular re-watch of Dawson’s Creek is that this show really struggled to balance out its multiple plots within episodes. Generally speaking, most hours of Creek have two concurrent plots, often dividing the core characters into pairs for one reason or another. One of those stories always centers around Dawson while the other generally revolves around Joey (unless their story is the same, in which case Pacey tends to get elevated to that other position). Even when everybody is in the same place at the same time (like in “The All-Nighter”), there are still dividing lines and factions and divergent stories. Sometimes all of those plots will be satisfying, and sometimes one will totally eclipse the other.Read More
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When Dawson’s Creek first premiered in January 1998, countless articles were written about the somewhat elevated language of the show’s teen protagonists. They were obsessed with self-analysis and casually tossed around dimestore SAT words that certainly felt out of place among their TV brethren, though not necessarily in actual high schools. That angle was used as criticism and praise in equal measure, but what it really drives home is creator Kevin Williamson’s general love of language.
Of course he loves words—he is, after all, a writer by trade. But we’ve all seen enough bad movies and middling television to know that not everybody who works with language actually has an affection for it.Read More
I know I’ve been hard on Dawson Leery, but throughout the first 19 episodes of the show bearing his name he has proven himself to be a petty and manipulative narcissist. Those qualities have been on particularly powerful display in the past few episodes as his relationship with Joey has slowly disintegrated, ending in their break-up in “The Dance.” In real life, I would never wish a break-up on anyone, but in the case of Dawson, getting dumped was the best thing that ever happened to him.Read More
My wife and I have been obsessing over Moonlighting, the hit dramedy from the ‘80s that launched the career of Bruce Willis. With a redesigned office and some deconstruction of Cybil Shepherd’s hair, Moonlighting would absolutely fit into the modern television landscape and would still be mildly ahead of its time today even though it went off the air in 1989.Read More
Dawson’s Creek was sometimes referred to (often in derisive terms) as a “teen soap,” and “Full Moon Rising” is certainly an episode that could be submitted as evidence of its soapiness. It features the continued presence of Tamara Jacobs (I had completely forgotten how long she sticks around in her second visit), as well as a deeply twisted escalation of the open marriage plot between Mitch and Gail and the sexual assault of poor Jen Lindley. It’s all pretty soapy.Read More
I have lost track of the actual number of times I have made my way through Dawson’s Creek, though I estimate this current run is at least the sixth time I’ve made my way through the series in sequence. There are plenty of my favorite episodes I have revisited as one-offs, including the hour that is coming up next in sequence. (Actually, the next dozen or so episodes make up what is probably my favorite run of television in history.) And while I love Dawson’s Creek as a grand monolithic experience, it remains a serialized television show, and with the number of episodes they produced over the course of six seasons, there are bound to be some duds. We have already discussed several of them, and there are plenty more to come. Some of those fail for character reasons. Some of them simply have narratives I hate. But in the case of “Tamara’s Return,” my esteem for it remains diminished specifically because I can never remember anything about it.
It’s not that “Tamara’s Return” is a terrible episode of television.Read More
Serialized storytelling has become so normalized on TV that audiences expect even the most casual shows to have some sort of larger narrative arc that stretches across a season (or multiple seasons). That was not necessarily the case when Dawson’s Creek’s second season surfaced in the fall of 1998, though looking back the WB was way ahead of its time in that regard. One of its biggest hits, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was already diving deep into teasing out long-term stories, and the just-premiered Felicity (which initially aired after Buffy) took a soapier path to extended narratives. Though it didn’t seem like Dawson’s was following that thread at the time, the show definitely dipped its toe in serialization—particularly in its first season, but certainly in a few mini-arcs in season two as well.
That all being said, “Alternative Lifestyles” feels like a standalone episode—the kind of “Monster of the Week” entries that The X-Files would slip in between entries in its larger mythos.Read More
It’s appropriate that I write this only a few days after my own birthday—an annual event with which I have a deeply complicated relationship—on the occasion of Pacey’s case of “the Molly Ringwalds.” (Joey deduces that he is referencing Sixteen Candles, not Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club.)Read More
It's Super Bowl week, and while I have less than zero interest in the upcoming game between the Patriots and the Eagles, I do love me some Super Bowl-adjacent content. So in honor of this Sunday's event, let's take a look at the best performances by football players in film and television. I disqualified any players who played themselves (except for one very important exception), and I should note at the top that Dan Marino might actually be the worst actor in the history of recorded medium (his stuff in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is truly painful, and he's playing Dan Marino!).
Also, a handful of Up All Afternoon listeners wanted Merlin Olsen on this list, but I've never seen Little House on the Prairie and my only association with him is in the confusingly terrible Joe Don Baker cop movie Mitchell. To the list!Read More
The second season of Dawson’s Creek opens exactly where the first season finale left off, with Dawson and Joey lip-locked in Dawson’s room. Picking up in media res is a brilliant move by the producers, as the conversation that the two of them would have immediately following that moment would have to be incredibly important. For a lot of shows, the kiss would be the logical climax and end point. But for the inhabitants of Dawson’s Creek, the analysis of the act is just as important as the act itself, and skipping forward would have denied devoted viewers an incredibly vital exchange.
The show punts that conversation just a little bit, as both Dawson and Joey are a little dumbstruck by the bold action they took at the end of the finale. Joey says, “You kissed me,” to which Dawson replies, “I know,” which feels like an homage to Leia and Han in The Empire Strikes Back and is a pretty cool piece of business. But as soon as the afterglow fades just a tiny bit, they both start waffling about what happens next.Read More
Lethal Weapon has not only become a pretty sizable ratings hit for Fox, but it also has entered into the pantheon of great TV shows that were translated from movies. There are plenty of disasters dotting the landscape, but these 10 examples were exceptionally well-executed, and in some cases rank up with the greatest television shows of all time.Read More
There’s a moment in the truly exceptional season one finale of Dawson’s Creek that not only galvanizes the arguments for Katie Holmes’ performance as Joey and the writing of Kevin Williamson (as well as credited co-writers Dana Baratta and Mike White) but also poignantly sums up everything I loved about this show back when it first arrived in early 1998.Read More
it cannot be understated how important the footage of Katie Holmes singing a song from Les Miserables on network TV was for me in May of 1998. At that point in my life as a high school sophomore, only two things really mattered to me: Music theater and...Read More
Even after Dawson’s Creek became a cultural touchstone, creator Kevin Williamson was still primarily known as the guy who resurrected the horror film economy with Scream (and to a lesser extent I Know What You Did Last Summer). After a decade or so of box office dominance, horror movies hit the skids in the ‘90s as many of the ‘80s slasher franchises faded away without any suitable replacements.Read More
In last week’s episode, Dawson exhibited some pretty evolved maturity in his faux-seduction of Nina the film student. But in returning to his element, our eponymous protagonist takes a huge step back, not only regressing to his post-Jen breakup emotional wallowing but also becoming a flat-out monster.Read More
One of the great joys of rewatching Dawson’s Creek this time around is realizing how off-base my dyed-in-the-wool convictions were about the show. For example, I had always operated under the ineffable truth that “Detention” was by far the best episode of the show’s first season. But it’s merely OK, and it has now become clear to me that “Road Trip” is unequivocally the finest hour of Dawson’s Creek’s first 13.Read More
I’ve been griping a lot about how the first season of Dawson’s Creek doesn’t spend nearly enough time on its central love triangle narrative, or at least doesn’t focus on it enough as I would like (or as much as I remembered it did). But I do give it credit: While we’ve been distracted by Dawson’s parents’ drama, Pacey’s statutory rape fantasies and Bessie’s dumb baby, the show has done a nice job of fleshing out the relationship between Dawson and Jen even though the bulk of their romance happens in the background and between episodes.Read More
For a teen show, what’s a better trope than Saturday detention, a thing that doesn’t actually exist in the real world?Read More
It only took six hours of programming, but I finally figured out why the Pacey/Tamara story has bothered me so much on this rewatch of Dawson’s Creek:Read More
I’ve been cheated on before, and it’s one of the worst things that ever happened to me. I experienced a truly brutal mix of emotions: Plenty of rage and a healthy sense of betrayal, sure, but also a strong dose of failure and a powerful jolt of inadequacy. Our relationship was already fissured by the time this revelation came to light, so there was no hope for reconciliation. I reacted with a level of cruelty that I still find jarring, though on certain days I don’t think I was nearly harsh enough.
So while my initial reaction to Mitch Leery’s discovery that his wife Gail has been having an affair with her co-anchor was, “Man, this guy is on some serial killer shit,”Read More