It’s rare for a TV show that ran for only 5 years to achieve such a strong level of cultural penetration, but such was the power of the 90s teen soap opera Dawson’s Creek. The antics of Dawson, Joey, Jen, Pacey, Jack and Andie captivated audiences with a mix of poignant, emotional moments and a frank attitude towards adolescent sexuality and morality. The show became a worldwide
phenomenon, making household names of James Van Der Beek (who played the titular Dawson), Katie Holmes (his best friend Joey), Joshua Jackson (the mature beyond his years Pacey) and Michelle Williams (the new girl in town, Jen).
Set in an idyllic seaside town in Massachusetts, the program focused around the relationship between Dawson and Joey, who began the show as childhood friends but who slowly realize that they are each other’s soul mates. Of course, at 15 years of age dealing with feelings is confusing at best, and Jen’s arrival throws a serious monkey wrench into everyone’s plans. Dawson’s best friend Pacey initially has designs on Joey himself, but he is soon led astray and deflowered by his high school English teacher – and that’s just the first season.
There was a lot to get excited about during the course of the five years during which audiences were given a peek into the daily lives of the inhabitants of Capeside. Alliances were forged and lost, triangles sprouted up between the closest of friends and in the end, everyone goes to college, grows up and joins the real world – sort of. It seems that the power of their childhood home continually brings the whole gang back together again and again, building up the love, bitterness and change that accompanies maturity. Life in Capeside sometimes steamed ahead at breakneck speed, and sometimes slowed down to a gentle, warm and glowing crawl, but the show left all of its fans with the feeling that they had witnessed something special in the lives of four forever connected friends.
The twisting plots and relationships of Dawson’s Creek would both tantalize and scandalize viewers, with under-20’s loving it and parental groups furiously decrying what they saw as its "loose morals." This furor would only make the show even more popular, and it wasn’t long before critics were hailing its unflinching look at the pressures of growing up while simultaneously deriding the sharp dialogue and worldly ways of its characters as "unrealistic."