Tuesday, January 20, 1998
'Dawson's Creek' overflows with sex

BY JOHN KIESEWETTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PASADENA, Calif. - What's with all the sex? That's all anybody thinks about any more.

Sex, sex, sex!

What's the big deal?

I'm not alone in my complaint. These are the words of Dawson Leery, main character in Warner Bros. new teen drama, Dawson's Creek.

His plea, written by creator Kevin Williamson (Scream, Scream 2) is the voice of reason in the steamy coming-of-age drama about four 15-year-olds that could be a huge TV hit for WB, as Beverly Hills 90210 was for Fox in 1990.

Teens will say this is a way-cool show - attractive young actors grappling with maturity, bopping along to the hottest MTV tunes.

As much as I want to love the show - the cool kids, charming New England setting and stunning cinematography - I can't get past the consuming preoccupation with sex, sex, sex.

Dawson's Creek essentially is the flip-side of the critically acclaimed My So-Called Life, ABC's depressingly cynical and grungy view of teen-age life canceled after one season (1994-95).

Dawson's Creek is flowing with optimism and romance - and unusually frank teen talk about sex organs, promiscuity, sexual fantasies and masturbation.

''This is not for your kids,'' said Jamie Kellner, WB chief executive officer, speaking to TV critics on the Winter Press Tour.

''I don't think we want children to watch the show. I think that's why we're playing it at 9 p.m.,'' he said.

Parents will cringe at the constant talk of sex. They may not find humor in the scene where Dawson (James Van Der Beek) walks in on his parents having sex - on the living room coffee table.

And they will wonder what message Mr. Williamson is delivering with the subplot about sophomore Pacey (Joshua Jackson from The Mighty Ducks) fantasizing about sleeping with the sexy 40-year-old English teacher - and then fulfilling that dream in an upcoming episode with no apparent consequences for teen or teacher.

Isn't that a crime?

Mr. Van Der Beek said the Dawson's Creek dialogue is realistic.

''Dawson is really kind of me at 15,'' said the 20-year-old actor, who grew up in Connecticut. ''I think the situations are exactly what we were going through at those ages. The show's very honest and it doesn't shy away from the kinds of things that we deal with.''

Mr. Williamson told TV critics last summer: ''I want this show to be about conversations that happen between kids, and dealing with certain subject matter that I think 15-year-olds really deal with.''

Mr. Williamson's autobiographical script was so frank that Cincinnati's Procter & Gamble Co. withdrew as a co-producer after an Enquirer story detailing the language last summer. Until early October, P&G was a silent financial partner with no content control. ''I never set out to make something provocative and racy,'' the writer said.

But it is both, starting with the opening scene, when Dawson asks childhood pal Joey (Katie Holmes from Toledo, Ohio) to spend the night in his bed - fully clothed - as they have done since kindergarten.

''That 'sleep-over' scene is my best friend, Fanny, that I grew up with. And she would come over and she would spend the night all the time for years. We were just best friends,'' Mr. Williamson said.

At the bottom of Dawson's Creek is the friendship of Dawson and Joey. All stories will spring from their relationships with Pacey, Dawson's parents and Jennifer, the new girl in town (Michelle Williams).

When Pacey first sees Jennifer in the premiere, he says to Dawson: ''Think she's a virgin? Wanna nail her?''

Later, jealous Joey asks her: ''Hey, Jen, are you a virgin? Because Dawson is a virgin, and two virgins make for a clumsy first encounter, don't you think?''

Welcome to Dawson's Creek. It's a beautiful place, one all teen-agers will love to visit.

I'd love it too, if it wasn't for the sex, sex, sex. That's all anybody thinks about. What's with all the sex?

Enquirer TV critic John Kiesewetter is reporting from the Winter Press Tour in Pasadena.