Saturday, January 20, 2018

Happy 20th Birthday, Dawson's Creek!

It seems unreal to me that Dawson's Creek turns 20 today. It was a show that forever defined the WB and its audience. When it premiered, the hype behind this thing was unavoidable. Creator Kevin Williamson was on a hot streak after writing Scream, Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, and so it was a rare promotional blitz where the writer got name-dropped as much as the actors.

I wasn't a viewer from the start. At the time, I considered silly teen soaps to be beneath me, even if the lead character was a teenage aspiring director who, like me, idolized Spielberg. I soon changed my tune before the start of the second season, and for a while the show remained a guilty pleasure. ("I watch for Katie Holmes!" was my half-joking defense and I know I was not alone in that.)

But around season three something strange happened, the show got REALLY good. You wouldn't have guessed it from the first couple episodes that year, which were the first under a new showrunner who really didn't understand the show and tried to turn it into something sleazy. Very quickly the writers realized they had to change course, and a seminal moment in TV history came with the eighth episode, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." TV legend has it that Greg Berlanti - who had only gotten his first job in TV a year earlier when he joined the staff of the show - completely rewrote the episode in the space of a weekend and vaulted all the way up to showrunner as a result.

The whole saga of how season 3 came out of a nosedive and reached a creative peak is told in Jeffrey Stepakoff's book Billion Dollar Kiss: The Kiss That Saved Dawson's Creek. It's well worth your time. it's about how Season 3 became the Joey/Pacey story, creating the triangle that would play out through most of the rest of the series.

It was a total pleasure a few years ago to interview Liz Tigelaar, a showrunner who got her start on Dawson's Creek as a writers assistant, even getting her first writing credit on the show. I did a video interview with her and you can find the first part below, where she talks about that experience.

If you want to see the remaining 12 parts, go here.

To mark the 20th anniversary, I wrote a piece for Film School Rejects looking at the films of Dawson Leery and projecting where he might be today. You can find that here.

And I'll close this post with my Top 10 Dawson's Creek episodes.

1. True Love - Joey and Pacey run off together for the summer.

2. All Good Things...Must Come To An End - Series finale

3. Four to Tango (after I posted this on Twitter, episode writer Gina Fattore expressed amazement, saying, "Four to Tango at #3? Seriously? Written in, like, 45 minutes in the middle of the night when other stuff was thrown out.")

4. The Long Goodbye

5. Detention (Joey hits bully with lunch tray!)

6. Appetite for Disaster

7. Castaways

8. The Graduate

9. Show Me Love - (Liz Tigelaar's first screen credit, btw)

10. To Green With Love

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