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Dawson's Creek: Season Five

Although Season Four of the WB's prime time teen soap was pleasantly less precocious than its predecessors, the following Fifth Season mostly squanders that new momentum with its lackluster redux of the show's now-stale dramatic devices, and an unfortunate return to insipid sentimentality. As the interminably wishy-washy quartet of Dawson (James Van Der Beek), Joey (Katie Holmes), Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Jen (Michelle Williams) leave the comforts of high school for life beyond, Dawson's Creek gets a change of scenery (with Boston now the primary location), but dramatically the show is treading water, especially as regards Dawson's and Joey's half-assed, will-they-won't-they courtship, which has devolved from the series' lynchpin of romantic tension to an obligatory, aching bore. For the most part, Season Five concerns itself with the group's chronic self-sabotaging of relationships, with the award for Most Lackadaisical Break-Up going to Dawson and Jen, who hook-up just long enough for Dawson to finally lose his cherry, freak out their friends, and then dissolve back into sleepwalking twits. The introduction of Busy Phillips (of Freaks & Geeks) as Joey's brassy roommate Audrey sparks some life into the show, and her match-up with Pacey is the season's most satisfying storyline; other new characters are not so interesting, such as Chad Michael Murray's pillow-headed lothario who seduces Jen and then preys on Joey, or Dawson's hyper filmmaking partner Oliver (Eddie Doling), or Sherilynn Fenn's brief appearance as Pacey's skanky boss. Few of these new antagonists ever transcend their function as plot devices, and even then require lapses in motivation on the part of the main characters to deliver on their purpose. Meredith Salinger has a nice bit as a film critic who gets personally involved in Dawson's career. As usual, the performances by Holmes and Jackson are good, Van Der Beek is solid as the show's unfortunately gooney namesake, and Williams is not as aggressively annoying as in seasons past. Kerr Smith is also fine as Jack, this year challenged with reconciling his homosexuality with frat life, and proving in the process that "gay" does not always mean "happy." The season hits low points with two "very special" episodes, one involving the death of regular cast member and another a mugging, both of which delve head-first into the thick sap of self-seriousness, which has never been the show's strong suit, and is made quite painful by the typically obvious, hack-like approach of the show's directing staff. Columbia TriStar's Dawson's Creek: The Complete Fifth Season presents 23 episodes on four discs, each in 1.33:1 full-frame transfers with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. While previous season sets have included excellent, engaging commentaries by rascally producer Paul Stupin, that feature has been discontinued and is not included with Season Five. Four-disc digipak.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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