In 2018, the Dawson’s Creek pilot feels like a patchwork quilt of 90s nostalgia. Its satisfying combination of teen drama paired with now throwback songs and charming performances are all sewn together in such a way that it’s easy to see why the show had such an appeal with a youth demographic.
The 1998 WB pilot centers on Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek), a film obsessed teenager who spends his days working at his town’s video store with his buddy Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), and his nights hanging out with his best friend Josephine “Joey” Potter (Katie Holmes). Just as the three teens are about to start the 10th grade of high school, a mysterious girl named Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) moves in, capturing the attention of Dawson, and prompting the jealousy of Joey. The four must deal with the trials of adolescence all while trying to find themselves in their town of Capeside, Massachusetts.
A heavy layer of teen drama and angst is spread across the episode reminiscent of other 90s teen television such as My So-Called Life: Does Joey have romantic feelings for Dawson? Does the new English teacher Ms. Jacobs have a thing for Pacey? Will Dawson gather up the courage to ask out Jen? Many of these plotlines have the character’s emotional meters cranked up at a consistent 10 and if you’re older have you feeling like you’re back standing outside your high school locker.
In one explosive scene, Dawson confronts Joey after she purposely sabotages a movie date he has with Jen. “Where’s a little understanding?” he complains, “Oh, I understand everything! I’m tired of understanding! All I do is understand!” she fires back. While moments such as this could easily come across as over-the-top they always feel earnest seeming to tap into how chaotic and confusing life can be at 15 years old.
The high school scenes are also bridged with 90s jams including the Chumbawamba hit “Tubthumping.” I mean, how can you not want to stomp your feet when the well-known chorus “I get knocked down, but I get up again” kicks in? The use of pop music assists in creating a tone that’s fun and enjoyable.
A big part of the enjoyment also stems from the charismatic main cast who use small moments to give their characters large amounts of personality: There’s the hidden mischievous grin of Holmes as Joey, Dawson, Jen, and Pacey head into the movie theater; the straightforward passion Van Der Beek injects into Dawson’s claim “All the answers to life’s questions can be found in a Spielberg film;” the wide eyed bewilderment Jackson brings to Pacey as he attempts to flirt with Ms. Jacobs; a compassionate stroke of the arm Williams has Jen give her sick grandfather; these moments crafted by the cast quickly create endearing characters.
Much like a patchwork quilt Dawson’s Creek exudes a feeling of warmness thanks to its nicely executed teen drama and likable lead performances. It makes revising adolescence well worth it.