Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 533 mins .
PG . PAL
Dawson’s Creek took the teenage world by storm with its 1998 release on television, with a bold new series that just sold so well. Currently up to its sixth series in the US, many new and exciting characters have been developed, and catapulted the young stars into the Hollywood spotlight.
Rumours can be found floating all over the Internet with regard to why the show is called “Dawson’s Creek”, and sadly it isn’t because Dawson drowns in the creek. Sigh. Created by Kevin Williamson, the writer of Scream and Teaching Mrs. Tingle (also starring Katie Holmes), the teenagers of Capeside have many adventures as they drag themselves through puberty, but the show does lack realism. When originally aired, the youngest cast member was Michelle Williams at 17, portraying a 15 year old. The scary thing is that Katie Holmes was 21, portraying a 15 year old. Now a few problems exist here, and firstly 15 year olds don’t talk like they have a built-in thesaurus, and also, the last time I checked, 15 year olds aren’t sleeping all over the place like mature adults. If they want a reason why younger people are sleeping around at an earlier age, check this show out as it may be part of the cause.
And yes, Joey can actually smile.
Dawson Leery is a Spielberg wannabe who lives in a small town, Capeside, outside of Boston. He has a forehead the size of a drive-in movie screen, and looks like he has been hit over the head with an ugly stick, not to mention the biggest thesaurus and psychological analysis book the world has ever known. Across the creek is his best friend Joey, played by Katie Holmes who adds depth and realism to her role, making hers a character you can actually realistically feel for. They have been friends for years, but now Dawson is growing a bulge and Joey is growing a pair of bulges, and their friendship is forced to change. Pacey is Dawson’s other best friend, and is known as the drop-kick failure. He just can’t get anywhere and is slickly pervasive with his actions. Not a lot happens in Capeside. They have high school, and they have each other, but this series things are going to change.
OK here we go, this is Series 1 – 13 episodes of immense-worded, self-infatuated, systematically diagnostic adolescents who just need to remember that they are only 15, and using simple language is OK. Be warned, the following synopses do contain severe major plot spoilers, so if you want to enjoy it the first time round, just skip down to the Video component of the review.
101 - Pilot
Spielberg-wannabe Dawson (Van Der Beek) is in the middle of making a horror film starring his two best friends, Joey (Holmes) and Pacey (Jackson), when the two guys get distracted by a blonde bombshell, Jen (Williams), who has been shipped to Capeside from New York. But with puberty settling in, hormones rage and Pacey gets the hots for his English teacher who he obviously and daringly flirts with at the video store where the two boys work. Keep an eye out at the end of this episode for some fantastic usage of the song I’ll Stand By You by the Pretenders, and its timing – simply gorgeous, and so touching too.
102 - Dance
It’s the Capeside High dance and Jen gets asked by football stud Cliff (Foley), and this gets Dawson jealous. This is after the selfish Dawson re-casts the ending to his horror film placing Jen in the action and hurting Joey in the mean time.
103 - Kiss
Dawson’s fantasy-riddled mind is planning out the perfect kiss for him and Jen, but he just can’t seem to get any. Pacey’s love interest with Miss Jacobs keeps developing with his persistent and sickening flirtations. Joey meets a young boarding school boy who falls for her, but she adopts a different identity to make him like her. The relationship between Dawson and Jen gets more complicated as a well-contrived plan falls on its arse and Dawson’s intentions are seriously questioned.
104 - Discovery
After Dawson’s “kiss” plan goes wrong, he discovers some X-rated footage on tape with Miss Jacobs and a brown-headed young man who is anonymous in the footage, but turns out to be Pacey. Dawson has a flip-out in this episode when he discovers his mum’s affair with anchorman Bob, and also learns that Jen lived life fairly quickly in New York, scaring him by the fact that she isn’t a virgin.
105 - Hurricane
A hurricane is headed for Capeside and everyone buckles up in the Leery house where things just take a turn for the worse, and secrets about everyone are revealed. Jen’s Grams lets emotions fly expressing her disgust at Joey’s sister’s illegitimate child-to-be with her black boyfriend out of wedlock, and this is just the start.
106 - Baby
It’s that time of the month, and no not that time but the after-nine-months-time, and with the ambulances attending a major road crash and some slight car troubles, Bessie, Joey’s sister, must give birth in Dawson’s living room aided by the nursing skills of Grams, forcing everyone to get over themselves.
107 - Detention
In a take-off of The Breakfast Club, tensions soar as Joey has to kiss Dawson and Pacey has to kiss Jen in a game of 'Truth or Dare' led by the mischievous Abby as they are all stuck in Saturday detention.
108 - Boyfriend
The shit hits the fan when Jen’s ex from New York arrives in Capeside to the disgust of Dawson and Grams as well. Pacey questions Joey about her obvious feelings for Dawson, which everyone can see except the self-centred Dawson Leery, the boy across the creek.
109 - Road Trip
With Billy, Jen’s ex, still hanging around, and Jen dumping Dawson, the guys go on a road trip, but Dawson still has the balls to know where his heart lies and can’t sleep with a one night stand to get over her. Football stud Warren picks up Joey in his car for “community service” and subsequently starts a vicious rumour around school, but Joey will have the last laugh on that one.
110 - Double Date
In an attempt to get Jen back, Dawson selfishly asks Mary-Beth out to go on a double date to the Capeside Carnival. But the truth is revealed early on and things sort of take a strange turn, and get even weirder when Pacey arrives and asks Dawson if he would mind if he kissed Joey, something that catches both Pacey and Joey off guard.
111 - The Scare
In a take-off of Scream, writer Kevin Williamson’s Hollywood baby, a Friday the 13th night of pranks goes wrong when the creepy Ursula is picked up by Pacey and brings in a few scary characters. This episode actually builds up some tension... surprisingly.
112 - Beauty Contest
The Annual Miss Windjammer contest is in for a year it will never forget, when Pacey decides to enter, as well as Joey. For her musical act she sings a moving rendition of On My Own from this reviewer’s favourite Broadway musical Les Miserables. And yes, even though it doesn’t look like she’s singing, it is her voice 99%. The other 1% is the enhancement and post-production. These two enter hoping to win the $5000 prize money, Joey for college funding, and Pacey for rent as his father is threatening to kick him out. Jen is now starting to regret breaking it off with Dawson, and gets jealous when Dawson starts to see Joey in a new light in her makeup and beauty-wear.
113 - Decisions
The season finale draws emotions high with the passing of Jen’s grandfather, the birthday of Joey’s home-breaking imprisoned father, and the kiss that will set the space between series on fire. The question has been answered. And they do kiss...
The video is presented in a full frame aspect, which is assumed given its 1998-made-for-television production. So obviously, it isn’t anamorphically enhanced. Generally it’s a very nice looking transfer but just has a few slight things that make you go “ewww”.
The strapping young Pacey meats... uh meets the sexy new teacher.
Colours are bright and realistic, although they look slightly “American”, but rest-assured that this is a PAL transfer. Skin tones are appropriately pink and are authentic enough, but still capture a hint of “fantasy” reminding us that we’re watching a television show – maybe a parallel between Dawson and his life... hmm now that is really reading too deep into Dawson’s Creek...
Shadow definitions are adequate, especially given the artificial appearance of the show. Black levels are deep enough, and provide a solid base for the image, with no sign of low-level noise. This un-enhanced transfer features aliasing here and there, but generally looks pretty darn good. One of the most noticeable issues occurs on the last few episodes, primarily where some severe cases of digital noise reduction can be seen on the microphone cord in “Beauty” and the wire at the prison in “Decision” where the image tends to get eaten up as the camera moves. During the episodes on Disc 4, the actors tend to have some slight rubber-face syndrome, also an effect of some quick and poorly-done digital noise reduction.
Why watch TV Dawson when we have a Drive-In movie screen on your forehead?
The detail of the image is reasonable, but not fantastic, and looks just like a television broadcast. Focus is spot on for the entire series, but the clarity of the image wavers as a fine yet stark wash of grain sits over the image, and is noticeable for most of the series. Some digital sharpness enhancement has really exacerbated this grain with some disgusting enhancements really making it obvious. Film artefacts skim through at this point, and at that, but nothing more. Their scarce nature gives this transfer a really clean look.
Each of the four discs in this package are dual-layered, which have layer changes in between episodes as no noticeable pauses are apparent during any of the episodes. The English subtitles provide a clear representation of the text, but are slightly edited for briefness, partially due to the thesaurus-like content of the dialogue.
The Dolby Digital English track is available on every episode, along with three other languages, and are encoded as a surround-encoded 2.0 track. An interesting point is that the Sony STR-KSL5 receiver decided to decode this track into a Pro-Logic II track, not a Pro-Logic track which other surround-encoded 2.0 tracks tend to default to. Hey, that’s not a bad thing, but just an odd thing to see.
Newcomer Jen is directed to flip her goddamn hair.
The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout the entire series, and comes from the centre speaker. At times, however, the dialogue does tend to move around to the left or right while sharing the centre channel and sounds a tad weird.
Effects come from the left and right speakers, with ambient effects and musical cues coming from every single speaker. The dreamy score, credited to Adam Fields, ambiently floats around the soundstage, and the pop soundtrack hits in with aggression and purpose, with a huge range of talented artists appearing including a few hits from the Canadian diva Sarah McLachlan as well as Chumbawumba, The Pretenders, Paula Cole, Jann Arden and Blink 182. Bass levels are fantastic and powerfully convey the fidelity of these musical pieces. Sadly the International theme song, Run Like Mad by Jann Arden fails to find its place on the R4 opening credits.
All four discs feature 4:3 menus, which are static and silent, and discs 1 and 4 feature some extras which are reasonable, but nothing fantastic.
Will they or won't they?
Disc 1 contains most of the features, with a fantastic Audio Commentary for Episode 1: Pilot. The commentary features the creator/writer/producer Kevin Williamson and producer Paul Stupin as they discuss each scene in the pilot and where inspiration, changes and ideas were developed from, as well as some slight technical details for continuity, such as the false moon. Two brief featurettes follow, with the first being a 8:23 making-of clip entitled “Dawson’s Creek: Day One”. The second runs for 6:54 and is entitled “Dawson’s Creek: Time Capsule”. These two feature some interviews with the key cast and crew, and are promo-styled featurettes. Where is the episode-length 'making-of' that was on television? Hmm, oh well. Finally we have a DVD-ROM Weblink to the WB Dawson’s Creek website, now managed by Sony.
Disc 4 features a single feature, and that is an equally superb Audio Commentary for Episode 13: Decisions. Again this is a top-notch commentary by the same two guys, and is great for fans but will hold little appeal to the general public.
For fans this is a must have collection, and hopefully R4 will be seeing the remaining series' sometime soon. The video and audio transfers are faithful to the show, and have nothing disgustingly major wrong with them. The extra features are sufficient, if vague and brief, but do offer some slight insight into the series. Like The Secret Life of Us is a defining series for the 20-somethings, Dawson’s Creek is just great for the developing teenagers.