With all six seasons coming out on a "Complete Series" DVD next week it was a perfect time for the Paley Center for Media to pay tribute to the coming of age series "Dawson's Creek" on Wednesday night in Beverly Hills. Besides viewing the pilot episode, members of the cast and crew talked about the impact of the show on television and their own lives. Here's a minute-by-minute rundown by our Jim Halterman:
7:06 PM - Rebecca Faez, Director of External Affairs for The Paley Center takes the podium to introduce how "Dawson's Creek" impacted a generation when it premiered in 1998 on the WB network. She gives Marc Rashba, Sony Home Entertainment Vice President of Marketing a moment to come up and say a few words.
7:07 PM - Marc thanks the fans first and foremost voicing their wanting the complete series DVD set that arrives in stores on Tuesday.
7:08 PM - Rebecca returns and invites Will Keck from TV Guide to take the stage and begin his moderating duties. Will admits he almost didn't accept the invite to moderate because he is still upset that creator Kevin Williamson killed off Michelle Williams's character in the final episode. That said, he also shares his excitement at being a part of this event and introduces the original pilot of "Dawson's Creek."
7:12 PM - Pilot is showing and after the teaser (featuring a very young James Van Der Beek and cute-as-hell Katie Holmes) the theme song over the credits is surprisingly NOT the Paula Cole "I Don't Want To Wait" song that was the chart-topping "Dawson's Creek" theme. More on that during the panel.
7:55 PM - Will returns and asks if anyone wants to come to the stage to sing the real theme song to the show. Nobody volunteers so Will calls the panel to the stage. Executive Producer Paul Stupin! Cast member Busy Philipps (Audrey)! Cast member Meredith Monroe (Andie McPhee)! Creator Kevin Williamson! Cast member James Van Der Beek (Dawson Leery)!
7:57 PM - Kevin and Paul remember how the role of Dawson was the last one cast and he wasn't cast until just before the first day of production on the pilot. Paul gives Marcia Shulman (then-casting director for the show) credit for alerting them to James and getting him considered and, eventually, chosen for the pivotal role of Dawson Leery.
8:00 PM - Will says that "Dawson's" was considered a show that saved the WB and asks Kevin if the same can be said for his current hit "Vampire Diaries" bringing more viewers to the CW network. Kevin shakes his head and says, "Television is just a different place now. It's not the same as it was. You're competing with so many other outlets in terms cable and other channels like ABC Family; there are just too many channels out there. I feel the same way in terms of the WB being a small little place and the CW is a small little place so it's very intimate in that you're dealing with 5 people. You're not dealing with a corporation."
8:01 PM - Will talks about how the dialogue of "Dawson's" was considered scandalous at the time but it now seems so innocent. Could things fly in today's TV landscape? Kevin says "I always felt like the show was about romance and sweaty palms and weak knees and that's what I wanted the show to be. It was really just the dialogue that was sort of racy. Like 'man-meat' [which is said in the pilot]. We could not say 'man-meat' today. I don't think I could get away with 'man-meat.' It's a different time. The Bushes got in there and changed the whole world."
8:03 PM - Will talks about how the show was daring in killing off characters and reveals that actress Monica Keena, whose character Abby drowned during the series, is in the audience. Monica stands up, shows that she is very much alive and takes a bow. Also, in the killing of Dawson's father (played by John Wesley Shipp), James says "One of the things about playing a character for that duration of time is you develop all this back story and all this history so I remember being struck like 'Wow! What's that going to be like to play?'" He added that because they filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina that when people left the show they really left and you didn't bump into them at Starbucks.
8:05 PM - Meredith talks about meeting the cast for the first time at the start of the second season and Katie Holmes was the first person to show up and greet her. "I was so nervous because it was a hit already... and Katie was like 'Oh! Nice to meet you!' I thought 'Oh, she's sweet!' and then she says 'Yeah, we had someone come in like you last year but they didn't last long and were gone after two episodes' and my jaw dropped. Then she said 'I'm just kidding!'" Meredith feigns her fast-paced heart beating at that joke.
8:07 PM - Busy tells how she originally came to the show for a guest spot but then-showrunner Tom Kapinos, who knew her from "Freaks and Geeks" said they should wait to use her when the cast went to college in season five. Busy said on her plane ride she was flying with Chad Michael Murray. "Just between us," Busy says, "I was horrified because I was afraid that people would associate him with me and I didn't like him very much." The crowd laughs and Busy assures them, "Listen, I don't care about burning bridges with CMM! It's no secret that I don't like him." Big laughs continue and Kevin buries his face in his hands.
8:10 PM - Will asks if anyone remembered Katie saying during the run of the show that she someday wanted to marry Tom Cruise, as Holmes has claimed many times in the press after becoming Mrs. Cruise. Busy shares, "I actually do remember her saying that in the trailer how she thought he was the bee's knees!"
8:11 PM - Will asks Meredith about the "highs and lows" in her character's life on the show. "I think you just said it," says Meredith, "she was so much fun because she had all those different levels and emotional qualities and I thought she was so rich and exciting!" She also admits that although she loved working with on-screen love interest Pacey (played by Joshua Jackson), she loved it when the whole cast was in the same scene.
8:14 PM - Kevin reflects on the gay character of Jack (played by Kerr Smith) and how he came out of the closet on the show. "I wanted the audience to sort of follow the journey so I wanted to kind of bring him in and have the audience grow to love him first and then reveal the truth of who he was and love him even more. I just wanted to be very sensitive to the way we chose to tell it. I never had any problem with it and called up Susanne Daniels, who was [WB] President at the time, and she was like 'Absolutely. Sounds great!' Her one request was 'Make sure when you deal with him coming out that you deal with it from Dawson's perspective and Joey's perspective and all the other kids' perspective and I want to see how they react to it.'"
8:16 PM - Surprising same sex kissing topic comes up when Will mentions that "Vampire Diaries" star Ian Somerholder and James have an interesting bond since the two men kissed in the movie "Rules of Attraction." Busy proudly states that she beat James to the punch when she first kissed Ian by playing his girlfriend in an MTV made-for-TV about Matthew Shepard. James admits, "If you have to kiss a guy, kiss Ian." Kevin then tells James that Ian told him that he was a good kisser. James is visibly pleased.
8:17 PM - Did Kevin always know that Joey would end up with Pacey in the finale? "I really didn't," he admits. "I knew that I wanted it to be special. This show was always supposed to be a coming of age story with a twist; I always wanted the show to have a twist and sort of comment on the coming of age and that's why I chose to kill the character of Jen because this was a coming of age story and this was about life lessons learned. The one lesson of what do you do when someone you care about and is part of your world dies... that was sort of the last lesson that you can possibly learn and that's the evolution of adulthood and that's what this story was. I felt like if you kill someone, I wanted to see the other characters rally around and deal with grief, true heartbreaking grief.
8:19 PM - Busy shares a story that Michelle Williams imparted to her. "Jen in the pilot was the catalyst for all these characters having to change so in the end she had to be the catalyst for all the characters going through that final change." Kevin says it was that catalyst that made everyone made their final decisions in the series finale.
8:20 PM - Paul remembers that there was a lot of going back and forth about who Joey should end up with in the finale. "I remember the last two hours that Kevin wrote was shot as two individual episodes that were put together as a two-hour. I think at one point in that first hour we were leaning more towards Dawson and if you watch that first hour I think there." Kevin also says that even though Dawson and Joey didn't end up together romantically, they are still - and always will be - soul mates.
8:22 PM - Would Kevin ever revisit "Dawson's Creek?" Kevin admits "I don't think so. The finale was five years later in the future so we kind of did that. I don't know what else to do because here's what you have to do - you'd have to create conflict, create a story and there would be all this drama and who wants to see that? We've closed the door. Let it all be a memory. This is a very nostalgic coming of age story. Let it be nostalgic now and let us all think back like 'Aw, I liked that show.'"
8:24 PM - Kevin and Paul reveal that they were the ones who shot the endearing main title sequence. According to Paul: "Kevin and I were saying 'We're only shooting a presentation but it would be cool to have some of sort of great main title.' James said the actors were told 'This will never see the air!' but, of course, that footage was used in the main titles for many seasons to come.
8:25 PM - The theme song confusion is finally cleared up. Licensing for the international version of the DVD prohibited the Paula Cole song. Kevin reveals that Alanis Morissette's "Hand In My Pocket" was originally going to be the theme song but the Paula Cole song fit better after being used in the commercials for the show. Someone hands Will a note and he reads, "The pilot shown tonight is the international TV pilot, which did not include the Paula Cole song. The first season set available on DVD does include the Paula Cole song."
8:26 PM - Q&A time. A fan says she loves seeing the "Dawson's" actors popping up on other shows. James gets a shout out for his dark guest role on "Criminal Minds." Busy says that feels her character on the new hit "Cougar Town" is essentially Audrey grown up. James also says he's doing an episode of "The Forgotten" but cannot reveal if he is the killer this time around.
8:28 PM - Kevin is asked about the autobiographical challenges of writing "Dawson's Creek." He says "Watching the pilot I was struck by how autobiographical so many of the elements of the show was. I forgot how much trouble I got in with my family and friends!"
8:30 PM - Kevin says that he Twitters James but he never responds. James sheepishly promises that he will start checking his VanDerJames Twitter account more often.
8:31 PM - Favorite episode? James says that the pilot has always been his favorite. "It was so new and it was a lot of discovery at the time... I remember when Dawson's dad died I think Tom Kapinos wrote that one. There was one that Gina Fattore wrote when the whole love triangle came to a head and I remember being at the table read thinking 'Wow, this is going to be good.'" Paul says that he loves the pilot and "I remember shooting it and we'd get the dailies the next day and the characters were coming to live and both Kevin and I would sit there looking at them and say to ourselves 'Maybe we have something here.'"
8:34 PM - Paul reflects on the writing staff that they had the first season and how just about everyone went on to create their own shows like Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars"), Mike White ("Cracking Up"), Jon Feldman ("Big Shots") and Maggie Friedman ("Eastwick").
8:36 PM - It's revealed that actress Mary Beth Peil (who played Jen's grandmother) was much younger than her character and was one of the characters that lasted the entire run of the show, even outliving her TV granddaughter.
8:38 PM - Will asks the crowd if they like that Joey ended up with Pacey or Dawson and there is clearly more applause for the Joey/Pacey pairing.
8:39 PM - Did Kevin ever hear from Steven Spielberg about his inclusion in the show as Dawson's idol? Kevin said that because the director owns all the rights to his films, they had to go through a lot of hoops to get him to see the pilot and approve using the posters that adorned Dawson's bedroom. Kevin also says that Spielberg finally watched the pilot and was fine with everything but, "there was one line in the show where there's a picture of Kate Capshaw and Dawson said, after Jen left the room, he turns to the picture and goes 'She's got a little Kate Capshaw thing going.' Spielberg saw it and said 'Please take it out.'"
8:40 PM - James shares his own Spielberg story. "I was at a Laker game when the show was really crazy and I was sitting courtside and I felt a hand on my shoulder and I thought 'Who is bugging me at a Laker game?'... I turned around and it was Steven Spielberg and he said 'I like the posters on your wall' and I said 'Hi!'"
8:43 PM - One final question comes from a North Carolina resident who asks about the cast's time in Wilmington. Busy says that she and Michelle Williams have talked about renting a house there with their families and James scoffs, "Michelle's been talking about that for years! That is never gonna happen!" Busy says that now that she has kids that they're going to make it happen.
8:45 PM - Since Busy has said that Audrey is grown up and is on "Cougar Town," where does everyone else think their characters are? Meredith says that Andie is so type-A that she's probably running an empire somewhere. James says that Dawson probably created a TV series about vampires, which gets a big laugh and round of applause. A fitting end for a nostalgic night.
"Dawson's Creek: The Complete Series" is available everywhere on DVD on Tuesday, November 10.