The reigning Teen Drama of the late 90's/early 00's. Revolved around a bunch of teenagers who live in the small fictional town of Capeside, Massachusetts. Particular focus on lead character Dawson Leery (James Van der Beek) and his 'girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-creek' best friend Joey Potter (Katie Holmes)Its gimmick was to show teenagers as well-spoken individuals with vocabularies that would make Calvin dizzy, rather than resort to the usual TV teenspeak. Fans of the show praised its respectful portrayal of how teens talk and think. Others were less enthralled by the characters' habit of twisting every minor thing into a soliloquy on life's mysteries.Everybody can agree on one thing, though. No other works of man, past or present, can ever top the maudlin madness of Dawson's Creek. The show inspired such passionate feelings that it indirectly spawned Television Without Pity (originally called "Dawson's Wrap").Famous both for its actors being much older than their on-screen counterparts and the infamous Dawson/Joey will-they-won't-they storyline.Also a notable example of the fan preferred couple getting together in the end.
Alpha Bitch: Subverted: Abby Morgan acts like a stereotypical Libby...except she isn't popular at all and has no friends whatsoever aside from her on-again, off-again friendship with Jen. A straight example was NellieOleson, but even she wasn't as bitchy as the typical example (she explicitly had nothing against Dawson) and disappeared after the first few episodes.
Ascended Extra: It's believed that Jack and Andie were not meant to last past the second season originally. In later seasons, Audrey in Season 5, who was added to the opening credits the following season.
Author Avatar: Dawson and Joey's initial friendship was based off the (platonic) relationship Kevin Williamson and a female friend had as children. Their personalities are derived from them in part as well.
Character Blog: One of the first shows to feature character diaries on the show's official site. This allowed the fans to find out what the characters were doing during the Summer breaks. Occasionally the writers would use the diaries to hint at upcoming characters or storylines for the Fall season. During the Fall season, fans could also access e-mail conversations and online chats between the characters.
Closet Key: Jack for Doug, although he had to, y'know, actually reach adulthood first.
Cool Old Guy: Mr. Brooks, a crotchety Yacht Club member who befriends Dawson (sort of) after he steals Brooks' boat.
Dating Do-Si-Do: Joey dated all three of the main male characters, Dawson dated Jen and Joey twice each (and would have hooked up with Andie per Word of God), Pacey dated all four girls that were in the main cast (if his friends-with-benefits deal with Jen counts), and they were trying to hook up Jack and Jen in early Season 2 before he went for Joey.
Getting Crap Past the Radar : In Mr. Peterson's English class, there's a huge word search on the bulletin board with the names of famous authors circled. Right across the top is Dickens. The three letters preceding it? B-I-G.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Poor Jack has trouble coming to terms with being gay. Though his various boyfriends make it abundantly clear that he's got it comparatively easy.
Informed Ability: Dawson's directing skills. Although many of the show's plotlines revolve around Dawson's genius directing ability, what the audience primarily sees are rough or rejected projects. However, we know he is talented because an unseen breakout film will land him an award or his final gig as a TV series director.
Informed Attribute: Joey's "It"—beginning with the college years, Joey went from merely being seen as very pretty to an absolute knockout whom no heterosexual male in her vicinity could resist falling in love with.
Ironic Echo: Joey's first breakup speech with Dawson and Gail's explanation of her affair to Mitch.
Jerk Jock: Averted with Jen's boyfriends Cliff (Season 1) and Henry (Season 3), and Jack himself when he joined the school football team.
Lampshade Hanging: This is done in a subtle and tragic way in the finale. A dying Jen tells Jack that she felt like she never really fit in:
"From the moment I stepped out of that cab and onto the creek, I was the instigator. The one who caused problems, rocked the creek and disrupted the delicate emotional balance of Capeside. And I don't want [her daughter] Amy to be that person. I want her to belong. I feel that I never really did."
This was her pretty much exact role on the show at the beginning.
Put on a Bus: Andie is written out of the show halfway through Season 4, and only returns in a few (cut) scenes in the Series Finale. Also, Audrey doesn't appear in the finale despite being a major character since Season 5.
Relationship Upgrade: The love triangle, square, dodecahedron... whatever one chooses to call it, persists right up until the series finale. Only then is the matter finally settled: Joey chooses Pacey over Dawson, citing that Dawson will always be her "soulmate" and best friend, but not her romantic partner. Jack and Doug likewise get together, although their relationship only existed in the finale itself and not the previous seasons.
Shoo Out the New Guy: Each season introduced new characters (love interests, old friends, antagonists etc) who would be involved with the main cast, only to disappear and never be seen again by season's end. Notable examples include Nikki Green, Drue Valentine, Gretchen Witter, and Charlie Todd. And, of course, the infamous Eve.
Drue was essentially being setup to return for a another season (as evidenced by the fact that he even told Jen that they were going to the same college after graduation). Unfortunately for Drue, The WB forced Chad Michael Murray onto the show after failing to find a starring project for him (this was right after his "Lone Ranger" pilot failed) which meant Drue was out and Drue-clone Charlie Todd was in.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Pacey had this dynamic with Andie when they first met. Also, in the long run, Pacey and Joey.
Suddenly Sexuality: Jack was presumably straight and interested in Joey in the first half of Season 2 before coming out. While such a thing is not impossible in real life, it's believed that his coming out story was due to creator Kevin Williamson wanting one of the main characters to be gay like himself. Williamson said he wanted to make Jack gay from the beginning, but he waited until he was sure fans liked the character before falling through with it.
There is something close to foreshadowing in the episode "Sex, She Wrote" a few episodes before the coming out story starts. He wants to have sex with Joey but while making out with her he can't get it up, so he settles for just making out. Might have been foreshadowing, might not.
Take That: A number of them in the finale (written by Kevin Williamson, the show's creator who left after the second season):
Dawson's semi-autobiographical show, The Creek, is used to poke fun at the overwrought, overly verbose melodrama the main show often indulged in.
Several plotlines and characters from the later seasons are mocked, including Dawson's rejection of Joey at the start of the third season and Eve. Audrey, the only regular character that Williamson didn't create, is also absent from the finale outside of a passing mention, despite the fact that a good friend of hers is dying.
A pretty unsubtle one at Kerr Smith, who never really hid how uncomfortable he was with playing a gay character - one of Dawson's minions reminds him that he still needs to tell one of his actors that his character is going to come out, and warns that he's going to hit the roof.
Teacher/Student Romance: Pacey and his English teacher Ms. Jacobs. Joey and Jack also attempted this with their college professors, though neither went any further.
Their First Time: Joey losing her virginity to Pacey was such a beautiful scene that it caused girls everywhere to get wildly unrealistic expectations.
Although the next episode, "Four Stories," reveals that it wasn't entirely perfect—it's implied that Joey didn't enjoy herself as much as she might have—but she's still glad it happened and eager to do it again.