Though The WB’s current incarnation, The CW, is often looked down upon as being the red-headed stepchild of the adopted second cousin at the family reunion, The WB is fondly remembered as the network that gave birth to the teen soap. But the difference between The WB and The CW is that The WB existed at a time when primetime TV was aimed almost completely at adults, not teens, and when the only choices were the regular networks and a few pay cable dramas on HBO (and if you want to read more about how the world of television has changed over the last decade and a half, I suggest you read Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution was Televised). Today our TV sets are overrun with original programming on nearly every channel, but back in the mid-1990s this was not the case.
‘Dawson’s Creek’ premiered on the WB (itself born in 1995) on January 20, 1998, at which time The WB was attempting to corner the fresh teen market. Fox, which had been the home of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210′ (1990-2000) and ‘Party of Five’ (1994-2000), was beginning to lean toward more adult fare with shows like ‘Ally McBeal’ (1997-2002). In August 1996 the WB premiered the conservative family drama ’7th Heaven’ (1996-2007) and in March 1997 Buffy staked her first vampire (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, 1997-2003).
Nine months after Dawson and Joey became household names, ‘Felicity’ (1998-2002) and ‘Charmed’ (1998-2006) premiered on the same network. A few years later ‘Gilmore Girls’ (2000-2007) and ‘Smallville’ (2001-2011) would follow suit and The WB would become known as the network for teen drama. But it never would have happened without ‘Dawson’s Creek’ as the show became the breakout hit for the network. It was paired with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ on Tuesday nights and together they propelled The WB’s popularity to new heights.
But as for the pilot episode itself, there’s not much to say. It’s not a groundbreaking pilot. It’s not in real time, there’s no plane crash, there’s nothing truly extraordinary about it. If it were a pilot script in today’s current television landscape, I highly doubt it would ever see the light of day let alone be ordered to series. But because the teen soap was a new concept in the mid-to-late 90s, it was fresh and new and the world gobbled it up.
Click here for the rest of the article which reviews and analyzes the full episode.