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Dawson's Creek: Season Two

Fortunately for viewers of Dawson's Creek, the rule for films — that sequels are always inferior to their forebears — holds no sway in the realm of series television, where sophomore seasons are almost invariably superior to the debut run. Season Two of Dawson's Creek picks up right where the last left off: with blooming wallflower Joey (Katie Holmes) finally receiving some requited affection from her dufus-defining childhood crush, the insufferably earnest Dawson Leary (James Van Der Beek). Although it takes less than 40 seconds into the first episode for Dawson's profuse psychoses to rekindle violent feelings in sensitive viewers, one of the great improvements this time around is how much less annoying Dawson can be when he's no longer pining for Jen, the troll-shaped, self-righteous skank-next-door (Michelle Williams). It's a pleasant surprise that one of the season's better storylines follows the previously unbearable Jen, as she spirals downward into a relapse of her hard-living, deservedly self-loathing past, and yet, somehow, she comes out of her slutful funk as smug as ever. One of the great curiosities of Dawson's Creek is how eagerly it takes unlikely perspectives, such as the attempted casting of Dawson's unfaithful mother as a victim when her infidelity functionally destroys her marriage, or Jen's preposterous laying down the terms of reconciliation with her beleaguered grandmother, who would be well advised to creep into her ward's bedroom at night and fix her with a Colombian necktie. Occasionally the show dares a controversial turn from T.V.'s established P.C. clichés, as when Jen flirts with dating a conservative Christian who challenges her views (but then the show drops the character like wildfire when he won't put out), but more frequently it settles for tried-and-true sanctimonies, such as when one hunky character (Kerr Smith) comes out of the closet and confronts his scolding father with ready-made speeches of tolerance. The season's best plot development comes in the form of Pacey's (the charismatic Joshua Jackson) unexpected character evolution through his romance with a troubled, but frequently delightful, classmate, Andie (Meredith Monroe), but even that takes a turn toward the irretrievably insipid at climax. Despite less apparent influence from the show's overwriting creator Kevin Williamson, and more involvement from talents like producers Mike White and David Semel, Dawson's Creek still easily slips into too many ludicrous soap turns, dredging up the first season's deadly subplot of a teacher-student romance for an unwelcome lowlight, and bringing back the transparent antagonism of Abby Morgan (Monica Keena), who figures too prominently as a cardboard instigator throughout most of the season. As with the first season, however, Dawson's Creek displays enough charm to remain watchably mediocre; never daring the quality, originality, or relevance to mean anything beyond a pleasant and occasionally amusing (if often stupidly so) time-killer. Columbia TriStar puts together a decent package for this set, which includes all 22 episodes across four discs. On the first and last episodes, executive producer Paul Stupin provides an excellent, engaging, and illuminating commentary on the process of producing a season of series television. It's one (or two) of the better commentaries out there. This set also advertises "all new music picked by the show's creator," which suggests less of an actual feature than probable licensing issues with the music used during the show's original T.V. run. Purists may balk at this tarnishing of the sacred "original vision," but there's still plenty of opportunity to gag at Paula Cole's indomitable, saccharine theme song. Includes trailers for a few cast-and-crew related movies. Four-DVD foldout digipak with paperboard sleeve.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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