I remember exactly when I first heard about the TV show Dawson’s Creek, I was at a sleepover at Laura Van Der [something]’s house. A few ten or eleven-year-old girls huddled in the basement gabbing about their favourite TV shows. Laura expressed her love for the teen drama but despite her enthusiasm, I didn’t watch the show. That was likely a mixture of one, Laura not being cool enough for me to think her opinion was credible, and two, it not being what my parents or brothers decided we were watching, the likes of which included Sailor Moon, Star Trek TNG, Jeopardy, Xena, Hercules, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers. Little did I know, not watching the show when it first aired would have pretty drastic effects on my High School career.
By 2002, the show had been syndicated and appeared on TBS channel 47 in Ottawa. From 10am-noon every weekday, TBS would air two back-to-back episodes of the show. Initially I stumbled upon it on the Friday of a long weekend, and because daytime programming didn’t have much to offer at the time other than talk shows, I decided to finally check out Laura’s recommendation. I quickly got sucked in. As I am still want to do, I immediately subscribed two people in my life as the Pacey and Dawson to my Josephine Potter. Each episode I’d get to live within the characters experience, which often mirrored the tangled relationships I was living. The only real difference was that none of us spoke in the verbose, thesaurus-mandatory way that the show employed. Also that I never dated my Pacey or Dawson – in the show of my life it was a will-they-won’t-they saga spanning a decade without any kind of satisfying ending. Perhaps then, less similar than my imagination allowed me to believe.
This difference was the reason I needed to continue watching the show. To have the satisfying ending that my love triangle was lacking. It was the reason that when TBS got to the end of the series and then started back at the beginning, I rewatched it, almost religiously. And because I wanted to live in Joey’s reality so much more than my own, I used every excuse I could on my parents to skip school. They rarely took the bait. And so I kept up with my studies, excelling in school, but always looking forward to the times when I would get sick so I could see if this time, Dawson smartened up and broke up with his girlfriend before sleeping with Joey on her birthday giving their future together a fighting chance. Spoiler: he didn’t.
In my last semester of High School, I strategically chose to have a spare first period so I was always able to take my time in the morning (read: watch TV), but sadly I’d have to leave before Dawson, Joey, and Pacey could pedantically torment themselves and each other for two hours. Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for my grades, I am a January baby. I am always hitting milestones before my friends. I got my driver’s license first, I was legally allowed to drink first, and I was able to sign myself out of class High School first. So, instead of thinking about my ability to secure a future education, I thought about my love for these characters and would ditch second period regularly. It got so bad, that I went from being an honours student to going into my final Chemistry exam with a failing grade, a class I needed to pass to graduate because I had given myself so many spares over the years, that I had no supplementary credits.
With intervention from a guidance counsellor and the head of the science department, coupled with an intense two weeks of learning a semester’s worth of Chemistry, I passed the exam. I lost my status as an honours which also meant I lost the favour of my mother, but that’s a whole story for another day. Despite what I lost, I gained much more. One, an encyclopedic knowledge of Dawson’s Creek, which I still reference today. Two, a masterclass in writing characters who are all intellectually smart (however emotionally stunted), a device that Aaron Sorkin also uses in his writing. And three, a first glimpse into how deep my fascination with television truly goes.
The world may credit Dawson’s Creek for providing us with one of the best memes to date:
I credit it as being one of the first clear signs that being a TV writer has always been my dream.