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'Dawson's Creek' nostalgia recap: 'What is up with the sex?'

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Pilot” | Aired Jan 20, 1998

Welcome to Capeside, an idyllic Massachusetts town where the hormones run high and all the clothes are from J. Crew. I’m Kim, one half of blogging team Head Over Feels, and I’ll be your guide through the late ’90s nostalgia of Dawson’s Creek. Let’s get right to it, shall we? ‘Cause I don’t want to wait for our lives to be over; I want to know right now. What will it be?

We open on a typical Saturday night in Capeside. Best friends Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek, sporting some unfortunate ’90s mushroom hair) and Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) are finishing up movie night. Joey starts putting on her shoes, ready to climb out the window and go home. This confuses Dawson, as Joey has always spent the night. He doesn’t see why it might be odd that she continue to share his bed now that they are 15. “I have breasts,” Joey declares, begging Dawson to see her as a woman. “And you have genitalia!” “I’ve always had genitalia,” he counters in a perfect argument. “Yeah, but now there’s more of it.” (This was considered controversial dialogue in 1998.)

After much hemming, hawing (“Don’t get all female on me, Joey”), and innocent, totally nonsexual wrestling, Joey agrees to stay. She awkwardly crawls into bed with Dawson, who whines about why Joey had to bring up sex in the first place. Also, he takes up most of the bed. Strike one.

The next morning, Dawson, Joey, and Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson) are hard at work on Dawson’s movie, which seems to be a poor retread of The Swamp Thing. Pacey and Joey do nothing but bicker, which is an instant sign that they are MFEO. A cab pulls up next door and out walks Jennifer Lindley (future three-time Oscar Nominee Michelle Williams), who sashays toward the group with her sundress unbuttoned all the way to her upper thigh. Subtlety, thy name is not Dawson’s Creek. The boys fall all over her, while Joey hates her on the spot, just because she’s blond and pretty. Teenagers.

Dawson and Pacey head into the house where, much to Dawson’s chagrin, they stumble upon his parents (Mary-Margaret Hume, whose hair is full of secrets, and John Wesley Shipp, still looking fine as Barry Allen’s dad on The Flash) getting busy on the coffee table. Later, at the video store, Pacey is teasing Dawson about this when in saunters Tamara Jacobs (Leann Hunley) in a tiny white sundress that’s seemingly made for a 12-year-old. Well aware that Pacey can barely manage to keep the drool off his chin, Tamara says she is “in the mood for romance” and asks to rent The Graduate. Again. Subtle.

Later that evening, Dawson sees Jen on the pier and tries to impress her with his movie-making aspirations and bedroom shrine to Spielberg. Joey overhears the attempted seduction. After Jen leaves, she sits with Dawson as he obsesses over whether or not his mom is having an affair with her co-anchor. This annoys Joey, who sees Dawson as always looking for drama in his picturesque life.

The next morning, over breakfast with her Grams (Mary Beth Peil), Jen asks about Dawson. Grams says that Dawson is trouble (HA!). Both he and Joey are “the wrong element” because neither of them go to church. Jen says that she is an atheist and Grams tries not to choke on her eggs. At school, Dawson tries to worm his way into an film lab (what high school has a film class, and why didn’t I go there?) and Joey is annoyed that she shares a class with Jen, who wants to know if Dawson and Joey are a thing. Joey adamantly denies it. Joey also reveals that her dad is in prison and her mother is dead and she lives with her sister Bessie (Nina Repeta), who is in an interracial relationship and pregnant. She then tells Jen that Dawson likes her and warns her not to abuse his feelings.

Pacey is goofing around in class when Tamara walks in. He stammers her name, and she smirks that he should call her Miss Jacobs during school hours. She’s his new English teacher. Pacey and Miss Jacobs banter after class about The Summer of ’42 and it’s icky and hot all at the same time. Tamara drops that she is planning to go to the movies that night, which Pacey takes as an invitation to join her. He convinces Dawson to ask Jen to the movies, and Dawson recruits a reluctant Joey to make it a foursome. This will go well, right?

Everyone preps for their night out. In a sweet sisterly move, Bessie gives Joey lipstick. Bessie KNOWS. Grams allows Jen to go, but only if Jen agrees to come to church with her, because she knows what happened in New York (foreshadowing!). Jen replies that she “will go to church when you say the word ‘penis’,” which has to rank as one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Mitch tells Dawson that watching Gail on TV is foreplay and makes a comment about Dawson needing condoms. This is the final straw for Dawson, who cries, “What is UP with the sex?” Because as much as he talks about it, sex scares the bejeezus out of him.

At the movies, Jen compliments Joey on her lipstick, which prompts a bitchy reply from Joey. Joey starts prodding Jen about whether she’s a virgin (Jen says she is) because she wants to make the evening miserable. Dawson goes for Jen’s hand as the lights dim, leading Joey to ask Jen if she’s a “size queen.” Dawson immediately drags Joey out of the theater.

Meanwhile, Pacey discovers that Tamara is there on a date. She tries to backpedal on all the flirting by saying she was only renting a movie. Uh-huh. The debate escalates until an angry patron punches Pacey in the face because he won’t be quiet. In the lobby, Joey expresses her frustration that Dawson has barely paid any attention to her since Jen showed up. “You’re so far removed from reality, you can’t even see what’s right in front of you,” she cries.

Pacey dejectedly walks on the boardwalk, sporting a wicked shiner, when he stumbles on Tamara. Because he is awesome, he calls Tamara out on her behavior.

“It’s a crock. The truth is you’re a well-put-together knockout of a woman who’s feeling a little insecure about hitting 40. So when a young, virile boy such as myself flirts with you, you enjoy it. You entice it. You fantasize about what it would be like to be with that young boy on the verge of manhood. ‘Cause it helps you stay feeling attractive. Makes the aging process a little more bearable. Well, let me tell you something. You blew it, lady. Because I’m the best sex you’ll never have.”

Tamara does what any normal red-blooded woman would do after a speech like that. She kisses him. Sure, it’s illegal. But you can’t deny that it’s also a little hot.

Dawson walks Jen home, apologizing for the disaster date. He attempts to kiss her, but Jen stops him. Dawson goes to his room to find Joey hiding in his closet (as you do). He apologizes for being “an insensitive male” and wants to know what is happening between them. He confesses that he thought she looked pretty with the lipstick, and Joey admits that she didn’t want to be the one holding his hand; she just didn’t want JEN holding it. Dawson says that he can tell Joey anything, which she immediately counters with a euphemism. “How often do you walk your dog? What time of day? How many times a week?” She’s met with a stony silence and crawls out the window, her point proven.

Joey heads for her boat, tears rolling down her face as The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand by You” swells in the background. “Joey! Usually in the morning! With Katie Couric,” Dawson shouts from the window. They burst out laughing, as nothing is funnier than sharing masturbation stories. Maybe these two will be okay after all.

As Joey pulls away from the dock, she sees Gail kissing her co-anchor in the driveway. Dun dun dun!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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