Why 'Dawson's Creek' Has the Most Successful TV Teen Cast Ever

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"Dawson's Creek"
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1997 The cast of "Dawson's Creek." From left to right: Michelle Williams (Jennifer Lindley), James Van Der Beek (Dawson Leery), Katie Holmes (Joey Potter) and Joshua Jackson (Pacey).

It's been 10 years since Joey chose Pacey, since Jen passed away, since Dawson made a TV show about them all — since "Dawson's Creek" wrapped everything up in a satisfying, sentimental bow.

If the 2003 series finale, a flash-forward that let the teens of Capeside grow up and make adult decisions, has held up well — except to those still aggrieved that Joey didn't choose Dawson — then so has its cast.

James Van Der Beek, the Spielberg-aspiring Dawson Leery, just wrapped up a fine, ironic turn as uber-James Van Der Beek on "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23." Joshua Jackson, the cougar-admiring, ultimately steadfast Pacey Witter, will never want for an invite to Comic-Con thanks to the recently concluded cult favorite "Fringe." Michelle Williams, the tragic Jen Lindley, is a three-time Oscar nominee ("Brokeback Mountain," "Blue Valentine," "My Week With Marilyn"). Katie Holmes, our dear Joey Potter, has starred in film ("Batman Begins"), on Broadway ("Dead Accounts") and, yes, in a six-year marriage to Tom Cruise. (And, yes, Williams had a child with the late Heath Ledger.)

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Has another cast of a teen drama series managed to amass as many credentials?

A look at how some of the 1990s-era contemporaries of the "Dawson's Creek" alumni stack up:

"Dawson's Creek" vs. "Beverly Hills, 90210":

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Thirteen years out from the "90210" finale, a good chunk of the original cast has gone either the reality-TV route (Jenny Garth, Shannen Doherty, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering), not that there's anything wrong with that, or the TV-guest-star route (Jason Priestley and Luke Perry), not that there's anything wrong with that, either. Additionally, Garth, Doherty, and Brian Austin Green each starred in a post-"90210" series, "What I Like About You," "Charmed," and "Wedding Band," respectively. All in all, pretty good.

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Advantage: "Dawson's Creek." Even though Priestley earns the "90210"-ers bonus points for directing a feature documentary on the Barenaked Ladies, Doherty gets personal bonus points for staying out of the tabloids in recent years, and Green sees Holmes's Cruise trump card with Megan Fox, collectively the West Beverly group just hasn't stayed as high-flying as the Capeside crew (not that there's anything wrong with that).

"Dawson's Creek" vs. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer":

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Like "Dawson's," "Buffy" ended its primetime run 10 years ago this May. And like "Dawson's," its core cast, including Charisma Carpenter, Eliza Dushku, Seth Green, and Michelle Trachtenberg, remains visible. And then there's Sarah Michelle Gellar, who despite the one-and-done run of "Ringer" looks as if she'll continue to be a TV fixture, and Alyson Hannigan, who will live on forever, "I Love Lucy"-style, through "How I Met Your Mother."

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Advantage: Too close to call. Not only has the "Buffy" team continued to work, but honorary Scooby Gang member, series creator Joss Whedon, wrote and directed the third-biggest box-office hit of all time in "The Avengers."

"Dawson's Creek" vs. "My So-Called Life":

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Outside of Claire Danes and Jared Leto, you probably have to search Google to find out what happened to the rest of the teen cast of "My So-Called Life," which was canceled after its first and only season in 1995.

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Advantage: Another tie, we dare say. Danes and Leto may be the only two currently renown members of the "Life" cast, but when Danes is busy collecting awards and starring on a water-cooler TV show ("Homeland") and Leto has established himself as both a credible film (the upcoming "Dallas Buyers Club") and rock star (30 Seconds to Mars) that's not an "only," that's a lot.

"Dawson's Creek" vs. "Party of Five":

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It's been 13 years since the Salinger family made its last dinner reservations. Since then, Scott Wolf has fronted other series (including "V"), honorary Salinger Jennifer Love Hewitt has gone from "Ghost Whisperer" to "The Client List," while Neve Campbell has proved good for a "Scream" sequel and Lacey Chabert has found a niche in animation voice work. Oh, and Matthew Fox starred in something called "Lost."

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Advantage: "Dawson's Creek," if only because Wolf and Fox, unlike Van Der Beek, Jackson, Williams, and Holmes, were hardly teens when they got their big teen-show break. (And, yes, we know, Van Der Beek and Jackson weren't teens, either; but at ages of 21 and 20, respectively, at the time of the "Dawson's" premiere, they were teen-adjacent.)

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