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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 monologue on life's mysteries.
Everyone can agree on one thing, though: Few works of man, past or present, can ever top the maudlin ferocity of Dawson's Creek. The show inspired such passionate feelings that it indirectly spawned Television Without Pity (originally called "Dawson's Wrap").
Also a notable example of the fan preferred couple getting together in the end.
Trope Namer for:
- Dawson Casting: Particularly 20 year-old James van der Beek (Dawson), 26 year-old Kerr Smith (Jack), and 30 year-old Meredith Monroe (Andie) playing high school sophomores.
- Aborted Arc: The entire first half of Season 3 was disregarded,getting only a passing mention in the finale.
- Actor Allusion: In the Season 1 episode "Detention," they're discussing the movie The Breakfast Club, and Pacey (played by Joshua Jackson, one of whose earliest roles was as Charlie Conway in The Mighty Ducks) disagrees with the others that Emilio Estevez is languishing in TV obscurity.
Pacey: No way! Emilio Estevez, he was in those Duck movies, remember? God, those were classic. So funny!
(Pacey laughs to himself, while the others look at him blankly.)
- 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 Nellie Oleson, but even she wasn't as bitchy as the typical example (she explicitly had nothing against Dawson) and disappeared after the first few episodes.
- Ambiguously Gay: Deputy Doug, played with until the end of the series.
- 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.
- Back for the Finale: Andie, though the scenes were cut in the original broadcast.
- Better Than Sex: Audrey once says that the one thing she misses the most about having a boyfriend is snuggling, which is, in her view, better than sex.
- Betty and Veronica: Dawson between Joey and Jen is the most straight example.
- Big Applesauce: Where Jen hails from.
- Broken Streak
- Carolina Doubling
- Cool Old Guy: Mr. Brooks, a crotchety Yacht Club member who befriends Dawson (sort of) after he steals Brooks' boat.
- Cool Old Lady : Evelyn "Grams" Ryan.
- 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.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Dawson
- Distant Finale : The finale took place five years after the previous episode.
- Dogged Nice Guy : Dawson perceives himself to be this.
- Dumb and Drummer: Over the noise of a pool bar, Pacey approaches a blonde and tells her, "I'm drummer for Pearl Jam." She replies, "You're dumber than who?" He slinks away.
- Egocentrically Religious: Barbara Johns.
- Engineered Public Confession
- Enter Stage Window
- Fag Hag: Jen for Jack.
- Femme Fatale : Eve, annoyingly so.
- Genki Girl : Andie, and in later seasons Audrey.
- 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.
- Girl Next Door: Joey.
- Good Bad Girl: Jen.
- Gym Bunny: Jack, in the later seasons.
- Has Two Daddies: Jack and Doug raise Jen's daughter Amy.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Barbara Johns, Capeside High's resident battleaxe.
- Hollywood Atheist: Subverted as Jen is a genuinely nice person.
- Hollywood Nerd: Joey Potter.
- Hot Scoop: Gale Leary.
- 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 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.
- Jerk Jock: Averted with Jen's boyfriends Cliff (Season 1) and Henry (Season 3), and Jack himself when he joined the school football team.
- Killed Off for Real: Abby Morgan, Mitch Leery, Jen in the Series Finale
- Master of the Mixed Message: Dawson and Joey (to each other as well as their rebound dates).
- Missing Mom: Jack and Andie's mother made appearances early in the second season, but was later sent to live with relatives due to her mental instability and was seldom mentioned again.
- Mock Millionaire: In the episode "Kiss", Joey pretends to be wealthy to avoid looking like a small-town girl when she pursues a handsome stranger named Anderson.
- Most Writers Are Adults: On purpose.
- My Girl Is a Slut: Dawson's philandering mom. His father, Mitch, proposes an open marriage as the solution. Well, this is The WB.
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: Dawson had a hard time reconciling his near-angelic view of Jen with what he knew of her past in New York, which ultimately led to their breakup.
- Out of Focus: Jen's role in the series was diminished in the later seasons, with Michelle Williams even going from second to third billing.
- Parental Abandonment : At the beginning of the series, Joey's mother was dead and her father was in prison, leaving her sister Bessie as her primary caretaker.
- Pretty White Kids With Problems: The inspiration for the Trope Namer.
- 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.
- Really Gets Around: Jen Lindley.
- Self-Parody: The Time Skip finale shows Dawson grudgingly at work on an overwrought teen drama entitled (wait for it) The Creek, based on his own life.
- 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.
- Slap Slap Kiss: Pacey had this dynamic with Andie when they first met. Also, in the long run, Pacey and Joey.
- Star-Making Role: Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, and Michelle Williams.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tomboyish Name: Josephine "Joey" Potter
- The Unfair Sex: Averted--Gail was having an extra-marital affair in the first season, but was not especially sympathetic, and the excuse she told Joey when she was discovered was treated as just that.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Dawson himself
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: It's sometimes easy to forget that most of the first season had Joey pining over Dawson, since for much of the rest of the series it's the other way around.
- Uptown Girl: This is how Pacey views Joey, though it's mostly in his head.
- Will They or Won't They?: Again, Dawson/Joey and later Pacey/Joey. Both did, though Joey ended up with Pacey for good in the finale.