Case Number 03009


Sony // 1998 // 570 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Elizabeth Skipper (Retired) // June 18th, 2003

The Charge

We're friends, okay? No matter how much body hair we acquire.

Opening Statement

Dawson's Creek is an institution. Since its first episode, highly anticipated because of creator Kevin Williamson's recent successes with the Scream franchise and I Know What You Did Last Summer, "The Creek" has inspired rabid loyalty among its viewers. I remember watching it when it first aired, when the WB was just a fledgling network, and I remember enjoying it, buying in to all the hype. So when I popped in the first episode, I was disappointed to find myself bored and unaffected. Where were the captivating storylines? Where were the characters' mature-beyond-their-years insights? Where was the originality?

I've come to the conclusion that time has not served this series well for two reasons. First, in five years I've grown up just enough that I am no longer a part of the show's target audience. I'm too old to fall for this stuff (or at least I like to think so). I see past the big words and the pretty faces to find it lacking substance. And second, Dawson's Creek has been supplanted by shows (such as Gilmore Girls and Everwood) that do what it used to do, but with more subtlety and skill. In other words, Dawson's Creek is old news.

Facts of the Case

* "Pilot"
I'm sorry I was such an insensitive male. I thought I was above it.
Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek, Varsity Blues, The Rules of Attraction) and his best friends, Joey Potter (Katie Holmes, Go, Wonder Boys, Abandon) and Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson, Urban Legend, Cruel Intentions, The Skulls), meet the new girl next door, Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams, Halloween H20, Dick, Prozac Nation).

* "Dance"
I'm not suggesting leather straps and Crisco, just a kiss.
Cliff (Scott Foley, Felicity, Scream 3) invites Jen to the school dance, necessitating Dawson to crash their date with Joey in tow.

* "Kiss"
Sorry, Dawson, but romance doesn't come with a John Williams score.
Dawson tries for his first kiss, Joey gets hers, and Pacey gets much more than just a kiss from his English teacher, Ms. Jacobs (Leann Hunley).

* "Discovery"
You know, that's really clever how you turn all that sexual repression into humor.
Dawson discovers his mom (Mary-Margaret Humes) is having an affair, Pacey reveals his encounter with Ms. Jacobs, and Jen discloses her less than chaste past.

* "Hurricane"
Fasten your seatbelt, it's going to be a bumpy life.
A hurricane threatens Capeside and Dawson encourages his mom to admit her affair to his dad (John Wesley Shipp).

* "Baby"
I can't wait to see the look on my mom's face when I tell her what happened in the living room.
Joey's sister, Bessie (Nina Repeta), gives birth with only Jen's judgmental grandmother, Grams (Mary Beth Peil), to help, and Pacey must deny his relationship to save Ms. Jacob's career.

* "Detention"
You're not a little Oompa-Loompa're a big, bad, manly Oompa-Loompa.
Dawson, Joey, Pacey, Jen, and Abby Morgan (Monica Keena, Crime and Punishment in Suburbia) star in this The Breakfast Club redux.

* "Boyfriend"
In the '40s, you could be a well-intentioned geek and still end up with the girl.
Jen's ex-boyfriend, Billy (Eion Bailey, Band of Brothers), shows up in Capeside with designs to win her back.

* "Roadtrip"
Does it bother you to know that you single-handedly perpetuate a stereotype?
Dawson and Pacey join Billy for a post-Jen roadtrip, and Joey plays dirty to fight a rumor.

* "The Scare"
Look, you wanna play this game, let's cut right to the chase: what's your favorite scary movie?
Friday the 13th. What's yours?
Ten Commandments -- don't ask.

Writer and producer Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer) turns Dawson's into another one of his scary movies.

* "Double Date"
How can you simply be friends with someone when every time you look at them, all you think about is how much more you really want?
Dawson and Jen go on a double date, and Pacey realizes he wants to be more than just friends with Joey.

* "Beauty Contest"
By braving this experiment, you've become a political activist, challenging social stereotypes.
I kinda just wanted to make some extra cash.

Joey and Pacey unexpectedly enter a beauty pageant.

* "Decisions"
Cliffhanger? C'mon, Dawson, you of all people should know that a cliffhanger is merely a manipulative TV standard designed to improve ratings.
Joey must decide whether to go to France, and Dawson must decide between Jen and Joey.

The Evidence

There's probably not much I can say about Dawson's Creek, the show, that you don't already know. It's a typical WB show -- a teenage drama with witty dialogue, attractive actors, and a hip soundtrack. When it first aired, it stood out for being cool and new; it had a cool new creator (Kevin Williamson), a cool new network (the WB), and the coolest newest music (theme song by Paula Cole). And it was edgier than others in its genre -- with a bigger vocabulary than Party of Five and a much stronger sexual charge than 7th Heaven. There's really not much more to tell.

So instead I'll focus on Dawson's Creek, the DVD. The three-disc set includes all 13 episodes of the first season, two (the first and the last) with commentaries by writer/producer Kevin Williamson and producer Paul Stupin. Though mildly interesting if you're a true fan who's interested in trivia and tidbits, the commentaries are too self-congratulatory for my taste. They include a lot of "look what a good job we did here" and "we really pulled it off there" comments. I have a love/hate relationship with shows like Dawson's Creek -- they make me laugh, they make me cry...and then they make me pissed at myself (and the show) for laughing and crying at such sentimentality. The hate side of the relationship grew as I listened to these commentaries and learned that so much of that sentimentality (at least on Dawson's) is purposeful. Williamson and Stupin unabashedly explain the techniques they use to tug at viewers' heartstrings.

In addition to the commentaries, the set offers two featurettes, "Dawson's Creek: Day One" (8 minutes) and "Season One Time Capsule" (7 minutes). Both include interviews -- the former with Kevin Williamson and Paul Stupin and the latter with James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, and Michelle Williams -- and discussions of, among other topics, the controversies surrounding some of the first season's storylines. If you haven't been watching since the beginning, the featurettes are useful for acquainting yourself with the context of the show. If you have been watching since the beginning, they're useful for experiencing a bit of nostalgia.

In addition, trailers for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Go, Dick, and Lone Star State of Mind are included.

I didn't expect it, but I would have been thrilled to see included a song list for each episode. If I recall correctly, Dawson's Creek was the first show with the nifty idea (and brilliant marketing ploy) of naming each episode's songs at the end. I'm pretty sure this practice didn't start until after the first season, so including a list on this first season DVD might have taken a little effort, but it would have continued the tradition of honoring the role music plays in the show.

Dawson's Creek is presented in full screen, despite having been shot in 1.78:1. The video quality is lacking: the picture is grainy, the colors bleed throughout, and I saw more than a few specks of dirt. And the audio quality is not much better: the dialogue is often difficult to hear, bass is very rarely used, and the sound could stand to be much clearer and crisper overall.

A little pet peeve I must mention: numerous times while watching Dawson's, I was frustrated that each episode has only one chapter stop. Starting at the beginning, hitting skip will land you right after the opening theme song. Once you've reached this point, hitting skip will land you at the black screen at the very end of the episode, after the credits have played. You're quickly taken to the menu, where you must start the episode over and fast forward to your chosen destination. Would it really have been that difficult to include two or three additional chapter stops to ease navigation?

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Dawson's Creek is nothing more than a soap opera for teenagers. Sure, they talk fancy and they dress pretty, but how could a show that includes a 15-year-old losing his virginity to his 36-year-old teacher be anything but pure trash?

Closing Statement

It's simple, really: if you're a Creek fan, buy the DVDs; if you're not, don't. And if you're not sure if you're a fan because you've never seen the show, save your money and watch Gilmore Girls instead.

The Verdict

Any crimes committed were done so by minors, whose records have since been expunged. Therefore, no charges can be filed.

Case adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2003 Elizabeth Skipper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 30
Audio: 60
Extras: 70
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

* English
* Korean
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 570 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentaries with Writer/Producer Kevin Williamson and Producer Paul Stupin: "Pilot" and "Decisions"
* "Dawson's Creek: Day One"
* "Season One Time Capsule"
* Trailers: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Go, Dick, and Lone Star State of Mind

* IMDb

* Official Site