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Dawson's Creek: Season Three

The partially reformed teenage ne'er-do-well Pacey (Joshua Jackson) drunkenly chides the bickering Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Joey (Katie Holmes), thusly:

"Do you have any idea how exhausting it is… to witness this perpetual dance that you two have? One week you're soulmates. The next week you're giving each other up for the greater good. I mean, do you think it's possible that sometime soon you could make up your mind? Please? And the reverence that you two treat this little saga of yours with is enough to make a guy want to puke."

Which he then demonstrates by purging the evening's heavy liquors from his stomach. In that one mini-monologue, Pacey concisely sums up what viewers of the teen soap Dawson's Creek might be feeling midway through its third season. Season One established the repressed romance between tomboy Joey and film geek Dawson, lifelong-friends-turned-hormonal-high-school-freshmen, and Season Two pushed them together and pulled them apart with such merciless fecklessness, that they ended their sophomore year trampled and worn by both neuroses and circumstance. With series creator Kevin Williamson leaving the show after Season Two, and a slough of new writers and producers brought in to carry on the franchise, Season Three struggles to find anything new or interesting to do with the Dawson-Joey relationship, and it finds itself hopelessly treading water in high school purgatory with little imagination for new narratives. Dawson's Creek's first two seasons teetered precariously on the line between addictive and annoying, with its unwieldy dialogue and amateurish melodramas frequently rescued by the charms of Holmes and Jackson, who provided needed balance to the gooey myopia of Dawson and the earnest skanktimony of the unappealing girl-next-door Jen (Michelle Williams). In Season Three, Dawson's Creek veers decidedly toward the anemic, with too many new bit-characters thrown in to manufacture drama amongst the tired principals, and some terrible casting choices (worst is Michael Pitt, as a mopey and possibly retarded love interest for Jen; and comely Brittany Daniel is too arch as a femme fatale who antagonizes Dawson's sense of propriety). Season Three created a media buzz with a prime-time gay kiss between Jack (Kerr Smith) and his object of affection (Adam Kaufman) in a subplot that reeked of boring, agenda-driven carefulness. The main storylines of the season followed Dawson's turbulent, and pathetic, attempts to escape from his chronically insipid persona, and the burgeoning romance between Joey and Pacey. While the latter is fairly well done by Dawson's Creek standards (although it suffers from familiarity), the former, while making Dawson marginally less irritating for the run of the season, is uninvolving and seldom convincing, highlighting key weaknesses in the show's ultimately unappealing title character. This DVD release also is missing Paula Cole's treacly pop-hit theme song, "I Don't Want to Wait," which exemplified the show's initial, maddeningly unpleasant, irresistibility. It, along with several other songs that originally appeared in the season's soundtrack, have been replaced by less-expensive and mostly unremarkable tunes. Columbia TriStar's Dawson's Creek: Season Three collects all 23 episodes in a four-disc set, all in the original full-frame transfers (1.33:1) and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Thankfully, executive producer Paul Stupin offers another pair of fine commentaries (on episodes 10 and 23) and never shies away from candidly, humorously, and astutely addressing the show's weaknesses. He is accompanied by actor Kerr Smith. Also with an interactive map of Capeside. Foldout digipak with paperboard sleeve.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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