Dawson’s Creek… The 90s cult classic that defined a generation, introduced us to the hormone-riddled and lexically-advanced adolescents of Capeside, and taught us about the mind-bending, heart-shattering rawness of teen love, lust and crucially angst makes a return to UK TV with every episode of the series being made available on All 4.
Back in 1998, when Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Pacey (Joshua Jackson) worked in Screenplay Video and could only dream about getting the girl (let alone the invention of digital boxsets) the first series began on Channel 4 and, along with Joey (Katie Holmes) and Jen (Michelle Williams), the nation became embroiled in the love triangle of the decade.
As Andie (Meredith Monroe) and Jack (Kerr Smith) joined the cast of Kevin Williamson’s hit show it saw some of the biggest TV moments of its era and paved the way for all teen dramas that followed. From coming out and the first gay kiss on American screens to the struggle with sex, losing your virginity, drug addiction and mental health to coping with the death of a parent and having an affair with a teacher, the creek kids covered it all… complete with infamous cry faces that broke our dial-up internet.
In celebration of its return we’re looking back at some of the most totes emosh episodes that rocked our lives, and theirs, and gave us all the feels in a time before “Cruise control”, Oscar noms and The Affair… *Warning*… Spoiler Alerts aplenty…
Series 2, episode 1 – When Dawson and Joey kissed, repeatedly… We’d waited an entire series for it to happen but they had waited 15 (yes, they were only 15 at the time) lustful years. The episode that also led us to meet The McPhee’s was responsible for the now CONSTANT lip-locking of our two childhood best friends. After finally realising their feelings for one another Dawson and Joey made up for lost time and there were puppy dog eyes, damp bangs, slo-mo walking and as Joey and Dawson kissed in the rain (they apparently hadn’t realised it was raining either) we were sweetly serenaded by the backing track of Billie Myers “Kiss the Rain”…. Meta.
Series 2, episode 19 – When Abby Morgan died… Abbie Morgan, the original bitch of Capeside and the first recurring character to meet her untimely fate, threw the gang into a complete tailspin. Not only was Abby a lesson in underage drinking and tributary safety, she showed the teens how to grieve for the first time. Her demise propelled the equally troubled Jen down the bumpy road back towards the security of the group and led Andie to deal with the death of her other brother Tim.
Series 3, episode 19 – When Joey Kissed Pacey First – Fast-forward a series and Dawson had competition for Joey’s heart in Pacey-shaped form. Across the past 19 episodes we’d seen the two grow closer, and Dawson had even asked Pacey to look out for her. The exceptionally witty Witter had taught Potter to drive, he’d rented her a wall for God’s sake, he’d rescued her from an ill-fated trip to the city and snogged her by the roadside (all while babysitting that cute kid from Jerry Maguire). But it took a Spring Break trip to visit Dawson’s Aunt Gwen (who we randomly hadn’t heard about before), a questionable karaoke session and Pacey’s arm (yes, that’s what we thought too) brushing up against Joey in bed and ‘making her feel alive’ for her to finally wise up to what the rest of us already knew and after much hesitation she kissed him.
Series 3, episode 23 – When Jack kissed Aidan and When Pacey told Joey to ‘Ask me to stay’ – Never before has so much happened in a 47 minute series finale. The episode that saw Mitch and Gail tie the knot for the second time, reassuring everyone (for a series at least) that ‘love ends and begins again’ no matter how old you are, also spawned the notorious ‘cry face’ and saw Grams go rogue, leading the gang on a carpe diem road trip to track down their almost-lost loves. After Jack had failed to kiss Aidan at the anti-prom in the previous episode he was finally ready. And as he took the plunge and put himself on the line, teens and adults the world round rejoiced with the first gay kiss on American screens finally being broadcast. Meanwhile Pacey had put Joey’s wall and a few tins of Dulux to good use, emblazoning it with his heartfelt plea to ‘ask me to stay’. She didn’t of course, but instead climbed aboard True Love with the boy who remembered everything about her (also note the previous ep) and set sail into the sunset, in nothing more than the outfit she stood up in…
Series 4, episode 6 – When Andie tried ecstasy – Andie McPhee was one of the first characters on a teen drama to illustrate the importance of mental health awareness. Her battle had been well- documented, but, failing to deal with the success of her acceptance into Harvard and believing that her medication was stopping her from feeling anything, she stumbled upon an ecstasy pill and took it at a rave. With everyone else too embroiled in their own Dawson/Pacey/Joey dramas to notice Andie ended up having a bad reaction and battling for her life. Proving that the drugs really don’t work she finally recovered but chose to travel to Italy for the summer, leading to essential viewing and the need for all the Kleenex in the following episode as she used her departure to try and mend the now somewhat splintered group.
Series 4, episode 14 – When Jen and Jack almost did it and when Joey and Pacey finally did –Though this lot could talk about almost anything with more eloquence than most Ivy League college professors (they talked about college a lot) they couldn’t quite confront the issue of S.E.X with each other. However, throw in a ski-trip, a hot-tub and a mini-bar, all horny hell broke loose. We saw Pacey and Joey ‘take the next-step’ in their relationship with Joey FINALLY letting go of the idea that her first time would be with Dawson. Elsewhere Jen and Jack’s purely platonic relationship bubbled over faster than said hot-tub when they lost their minds to several little bottles of Smirnoff and the kind of loneliness that, these days, can only be caused by a 2am Tinder binge, after several shots of Sambuca. Thankfully they recovered their tiny minds and realised what they were doing before it was too late.
Series 5, episode 3 – When Mitch died – In a time when many of us were still eating gluten and dairy who would have thought an ice cream cone could be so dangerous?! Mitch Leery, the original DILF (stand down Sandy Cohen and The O.C, you came later), taught us the very true perils of driving hands-free. The brilliant thing about Ma and Pa Leery was that they showed us that parents could be totally flawed. They were the folks that we either fancied or wanted to be adopted by and Mitch’s untimely death saw Dawson deal with recurring anxiety and failed dreams as a result. Conversely, it ultimately healed the brotherly like bond between him and our hero Pacey that had been shattered due to the previously aforementioned love-triangle. So, some good came of it…
Series 6, the final ever episode – When Dawson told Lily about soulmates based on his relationship with Joey – Dawson and Joey, Joey and Pacey, Dawson and Joey again, briefly, then PLEASE LET DAWSON AND JOEY END UP TOGETHER. During a series finale that so brilliantly ate itself with Dawson becoming a show runner for his own teen soap, The Creek (where he ignored all plagiarism rules and basically based the entire thing on his adolescence. Hello Colby, Sam and Petey). We saw Pacey finally get the girl and Dawson accept that he never would, but that it didn’t matter because Joey would always be his soulmate, “The one person who knew you and accepted you and believed in you before anyone else did or when no one else would.” The episode also saw the death of the much loved Jen, who left behind her baby daughter Amy for Jack and Pacey’s bro Doug to raise. Whoever said dwindling youth was easy?!
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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