Or, The End of an Affair
It’s a sad fact of TV programs, and one that is exploited by evil execs, that if you find characters who you engage in a TV series, there is a disproportionate amount of crap you will go through following them. How else to explain TV series continually being made after all originality and quality has gone? We liked these characters, we’ll sit through barge loads of crap like later series of the X-Files or Hollyoaks during it’s low periods (not that I do, but people must, I would imagine). So, it is with great relief that I find myself physically unable to watch Dawson’s Creek these days without shooting the TV, Elvis style.
I should’ve got out a long time ago, I know, but they caught me when I was young. When ‘the Creek’ started, it was a charming little teen drama. You couldn’t take it too seriously, but it was good soapy fun. And, y’know, in a way I was just like Dawson. I experienced painful break-ups, I was more sophisticated than all the stupid jocks. I had a wise-cracking best friend, who I never really saw as he was busy with his own storylines but we usually talked about our problems about once a week. My forehead wasn’t quite so big, granted, but I had my identification character right there. And hot chicks fancied him! So, the first series of Dawsons, all very good. Especially on a Sunday when you had a hangover.
But, like Buffy, they had to shake it up by adding new characters. It wasn’t so bad to start with, a wisecracking girl for Pacey, and a sensitive bloke for sensitive Joey. But every year they’d be a new intake of partners for the mains, and mostly they’d be gone by the next year. It all served to dilute the essential Dawson/Pacey/Joey/Jenness of it. Plus, they started messing with the characters. Pacey became the sensitive troubled teen lead, which kind of left Dawson with nothing to do but sit around and think about how much he loved movies. Which is a bit unfair, as it was his creek after all. Plus, the whole Dawson/Joey love affair, established as basically the centre of the entire series, was certainly too weak to merit it As the whole on-again, off-again thing happens for the 8th time, you’re forced to wonder just how much you really care. The answer: not at all.
There was no overnight drop of quality, however. The reason I didn’t get out sooner was that it was a gradual process, so it took a few moments of absolute naffness before I could step back from myself and realise just how utterly pointless the whole thing was. Case in point, the character of Jen. Now, she couldn’t just be a wild party girl because she was stuck in a dull one-creek town filled with self-analytical stereotypes. She had to have issues. So, they built up her relationship with her psychiatrist, so she could discover some repressed memories. And, even though all of this was pointing to an abusive relationship with her father, and was actually being handled quite sensitively, they absolutely copped out and invalidated the entire character by saying that the repressed anger and need for self destruction she had was because she saw her dad having sex with a girl she knew. I mean, that’s certainly icky, but I don’t think it would scar you completely at such an emotional level.
To be fair, it wasn’t just a case of the series getting crap, sometimes it was the series not changing at all. Like Sisyphus pushing his stone up the hill, the cast can never really sort out their issues, because if they did they would have nothing to moan about. It’s like a friend going through a hard time. To start with you feel compassion and sympathy, but after a while you get the sense that they enjoy wallowing in self pity, and that they go looking for problems, and you just want them to pull themselves together. I mean who amongst us has not wanted to give Dawson a big ol’ slap across the chops. If you look at these people’s lives, you have to wonder how they manage to find so much to complain about. Joey’s a genius and an incredibly talented artist/singer going to a good university, Pacey’s a talented chef who’s shacked up with the most well endowed member of the cast, Jen’s a DJ (?!?) and Dawson is, as far as I can make out, assisting a director on a Hollywood movie and shagging one of the actresses. It is representational of American culture that people can be achieving their dreams and still find so much to be upset about. The Dawson gang should spend a couple of weeks in Eastenders, they they’d get something to complain about.
That’s not to say that it’s descent into mediocrity didn’t contain some classic moments of humour, mostly unintentional. If you’ll indulge an old man, I’d like to share a few of them. When Joey got mugged, for instance, but managed to do it in a sharp talking, excessively dialogued way; ‘Give me your money’ ‘oh, that’s real original’ ‘Listen, you stuck-up little girl’ ‘Hey, you don’t know how hard it is for me’ etc. etc. Or when they tried to ironically spoof the Blair Witch Project by just copying it and adding lots of over analytical talking. Look at Sunset Beach’s superb Terror Island sequence for how to do horror film homages in bad soap. Or when Jack was gay, only it didn’t mean he slept with men, just that he was quite deep and pouted a lot. Only then he became a football player, to stuff their stereotypes down their necks and stopped being sensitive.
However, these occasional moments of laugh out loud rubbishness did not cover up the fact that the whole thing was just no fun any more. I didn’t care who was going out with who, why they’d all managed to end up in Boston even though they had ironically mocked TV shows which had all the cast members go to college in the same city. I didn’t give a damn that Pacey had a beard or Joey was now smart talking with yet another young spunky lecturer. All it did was reinforce how much of my time had been wasted on this shambling corpse of a TV show. But maybe, we can take something from this. Don’t watch a program when it stops being good. Drop it, cold. It might get better, but really life’s too short. So, mark-wise, I would give the first series of the Creek 7/10, then subtract one for each subsequent series. Which would make the 7th and last series, by my reckoning
Yeah, but you'd still do Joey, wouldn't you?
Buy on Amazon: Dawson's Creek: The Complete Collection