So finally, after weeks of
airhorn hype and commercials polluting my
enjoyment of Buffy
the Vampire Slayer, comes the WB's new attempt to catch
lightning in a bottle: Dawson's Creek, airing after Buffy
at 9pm Tuesdays. If the premiere episode is any indication, creator
Kevin Williamson not only wants to revive '80s horror -- he wants
to re-animate John Hughes teen angst-fests.
movies aside, I'm rapidly losing my respect for Williamson.
First the depressingly routine I
Know What You Did Last Summer (referenced twice
in the premiere episode with strategically-placed posters --
once in a video store, again in a film teacher's classroom ...
yeah, I'd want to take a film class from a guy with taste that
shitty); now this overwritten teen soap opera, which plays the
old game of flattering its young audience with the idea that
they're so much more intelligent and hip than their hopelessly
uncool parental units.
Dawson (James Van Der Beek)
is a rabid Spielberg fan who's working on a
Creature of the Black Lagoon-type student film. For a
Spielberg acolyte, Dawson seems to have memory gaps. In one scene,
he's debating sex with his oversexed dad: "If sex is so
important, why aren't
there any sex scenes in Spielberg's films?" Uh, sorry, Dawsie,
there is. Watch Schindler's
List again. What's that naked lady doing on top of Liam
Neeson? Playing Scrabble?
Dawson has a platonic friendship
with Joey (Katie Holmes), who's a clone of
The Wonder Years' Winnie Cooper right down to her long
straight hair and
omnipresent troubled pout. Joey is afraid that Dawson will want
their relationship to socratic, but instead he falls for new
(Michelle Williams, from Species).
Meanwhile, Dawson's geeky buddy Pacey
(Joshua Jackson) is warm for the form of a hotsy Mrs. Robinson-esque
Williamson's weakness for over-articulate
dialogue is indulged here as never before. Joey to Dawson: "I
just think our emerging hormones are destined to alter our relationship
and I'm trying to limit the fallout." No 15-year-old talks
like that. No human being talks like that. A well-written teen
character needn't be unrealistically verbose to be witty: Look
at any episode of Buffy, created by Joss Whedon, who's
ten times the writer Williamson is.
Then again, Whedon also shapes
his adult characters with respect. The
stuffy Giles and even Buffy's perpetually clueless mom have dimensions,
human strengths and frailties. Not so the adults on Dawson's
Creek, who are cartoons out of a bad John Hughes flick (Williamson
is picking the wrong
role model). Jen's grandmother, for instance, is a facile caricature
religious rigidity, and the other "grownups" are more
hormonal than the
teens in Porky's.
The WB succeeded in recruiting
fresh young faces; the actors, particularly
Williams and Holmes, make you wish they were in material that
their budding talents. (And Holmes actually was -- she appeared
Ice Storm.) The commercially shrewd characterization
and hype may deliver a badly-needed hit for the WB, and if those
viewers provide new lead-in eyeballs for Buffy, I'll be
glad -- but that's all this glib, shallow series is good for.