Judge Ryan Keefer doesn't want to wait for Dawson's Creek to be over. Sadly, syndication doesn't afford him that kind of eternal peace.
Our reviews of Dawson's Creek: The Complete First Season (published June 18th, 2003), Dawson's Creek: The Complete Second Season (published January 19th, 2004), Dawson's Creek: The Complete Third Season (published December 1st, 2004), Dawson's Creek: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 24th, 2004), and Dawson's Creek: The Series Finale (published April 27th, 2004) are also available.
"I don't want to wait for our lives to be over, I want to know right now
what it will be."
Like it or not, Dawson's Creek had gained a fairly substantial fan base on the WB network, and had been fairly close to its creative peak before deciding to make the leap to "the college years." Would the transition away from the sleepy town of Capeside prove to be a smooth one, or would it be a painful experience that would send the show into the great big creative vacuum shared by so many other shows?
Facts of the Case
With the show's characters having their horizons broadened in so many different ways, it's hard to imagine if they would ever be the same again. Season Five of Dawson's Creek marked a change in venue, as Joey (Katie Holmes, Batman Begins) was going off to college in Boston while Dawson (James Van Der Beek, Texas Rangers) went to California to pursue his dream of being the next Spielberg. In the meantime Pacey (Joshua Jackson, The Laramie Project) decided to stay in Capeside, picking up odd jobs before finding a calling as a chef.
So you have a dilemma; what do you do when the integral parts of your show are seemingly scattered to three separate locations, where they will seldom contact each other again? Why, through fate (and semi-clever writing) of course. Get them all reunited in one location, and hype it as part of the "new" era of the show. With the show experiencing a transitional year, this was the make or break time, despite hitting that magical year in television when you can sit on your hands and wait for syndication to come in. Carry on, dear reader, and discover if the show sinks or swims!
It's fair to say that Holmes and Jackson turned in decent performances on a more consistent basis over the course of this season, and Van Der Beek even had a good episode in him occasionally. With her increased film experience, Jen (Michelle Williams, The Station Agent) was even pretty tolerable. But the writing was definitely on the wall for the show. Look at the proof: just before (and during) Season Five of Dawson's Creek, the show eerily contained a couple of clichés from previous television series (spoilers ahoy!):
• Happy Graduation!
• OK, they hook up, so then what?
There were other moments during the season that were intended as crucial show moments, but bordered on instability. Dawson's father Mitch being killed in a car accident was one thing, subjecting the viewing public to Dawson's numerous therapy appointments was something else. And for all the insecurities that Joey Potter had in the first three seasons and change of the show, during Season Five she grew up, and at times almost seemed to be a correspondent for Penthouse Forum. She made out with one of her teachers (the "Staying for Extra Credit" experience), dated a student (the "My First Year in College" experience) and made out with Charlie (the "My First Male Bimbo" experience). But nothing, nothing, can prepare you for the next words you're going to read.
Katie Holmes sang, on stage, with a band. She lip-synched, but the track was pre-recorded, and she was singing! For those few devotees of the show left that had stuck around during Season Five and faithfully watched every episode, it was at that moment that their eyes closed simultaneously, and the next thing they saw was a bright light—or they may have changed the channel and forgot about this horrible episode. It's an event to forget, and inexplicably, it was dragged out over several more episodes, proving that there really is a fate worse than death. What could remotely be considered a redeeming quality was the appearance of Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) for a few episodes, but her plot arc turned strange, as she become almost psychotically infatuated with Pacey, leading to a scene where she almost drives both of them off of a road in her car. And since that episode aired less than six months after Vanilla Sky came to theaters (when Cameron Diaz drove her and Tom Cruise off a bridge), you could say that it was probably not the most original idea in the world.
And then you have the filler material on the show, storylines with supporting actors that no one really enjoys, so they're the supporting cast. It's the stuff that no one watches, or has any interest in spending more than five minutes watching in one sitting. Jen's grandmother, lovingly known as "Grams" (Mary Beth Peil, The Stepford Wives (2004)) even had a romantic interest during the season, speaking of pathetic storylines. And quite frankly, she recited every line of dialogue as if she watched too many Pepperidge Farm commercials. Then you have Jack (Kerr Smith, Final Destination), who for the two previous years had to be held back from coming out of the closet. Now in Boston, he couldn't go back in fast enough, being ashamed and conflicted with the two big romances he had during the year. While it's admirable that the show's creators wanted to promote a gay teen character on the show, it seemed that Jack's behavior and actions bordered on schizophrenic. Much of the charm of the show was wiped away, and was completely gone in the last five or six episodes of the season.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Dawson Leary has never really been a likable character; he's been more of a schmuck. When he's not pouting, he's wondering what to do with his life. When he smiles, it's the smile of a high school jock that beat the nerds up. The only likable character was Pacey, and he was wasted during the season. And I'll say this once more: Katie Holmes sang.
Like the athlete who sticks around for one season too many, or the boxer that has one too many prizefights, Dawson's Creek outlived its welcome shortly before Season Four ended, and the concepts thrown around in Season Five defy a lot of common sense. It seemed like everyone was in it for the money at this point, art be damned.
Dawson's Creek is found guilty of taking perfectly good coming-of-age entertainment and smashing it into several hundred pieces. Kevin Williamson would be ashamed at the nonsense that evolved after his departure.
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