The WB teens face stiff competition from the overheated Aaron Spelling soap

By Sandra P. Angulo
October 04, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

The wait is over for ”Dawson’s Creek” fans who’ve spent the past five months wondering exactly what happened on Pacey and Joey’s summerlong trip on the sailboat True Love. Though Wednesday’s fourth season opener (8-9 p.m., WB) resolves the big ”did they or didn’t they” cliffhanger (see below for more), the even bigger question could be whether viewers will be lured away by ”Dawson’s”’ gleefully trashy competition. ”Titans,” NBC’s new Aaron Spelling soap starring Yasmine Bleeth, Victoria Principal, and Casper Van Dien, is packed with oversexed characters who’d probably snicker at the ”Dawson’s” dilemmas.

Even so, ”Dawson’s” executive producer Greg Berlanti calls his show the ”intelligent guilty pleasure” for teens and young adults. Berlanti tells he’s not worried about the threat of any Bleeth – Principal catfights luring viewers away from the clean cut teens of Capeside. ”We’re a much smarter, more heartfelt drama. We have all the sex appeal of a show like that, but we have better stories,” he says. ”Every year there’s another new show against us, and the following year they’re gone.” Indeed, for past three seasons, ”Dawson’s” — the WB’s fifth highest rated program — has drawn a steady 4 million viewers per week.

Still, ”Dawson’s” isn’t above a few stunts of its own. For starters, fans of MTV’s ”Real World” will recognize the French exchange student who romances Andie (Meredith Monroe) as Jason Daniel Roberts — a.k.a. Danny from New Orleans.

And here’s’s sneak peek at some of the show’s other new faces, relationships, and revelations. (Caution: Spoilers ahead.)

? Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Joey (Katie Holmes) DON’T go all the way on their sea voyage, but as always, sex will be an issue on the series, especially for virgins in residence Joey and Dawson (James Van Der Beek). ”That’s the one thing everyone’s waiting to see. Who has sex with whom,” says Berlanti. ”There is definitely going to be a lot of talk about it, but whether or not IT occurs is right up there with ‘Who shot J.R.?”’

? Pacey’s older sister Gretchen (played by ”Wasteland” star Sasha Alexander) mysteriously leaves college and returns to town. Berlanti says ”we’ll meet all of Pacey’s family this year.” Then there’s Arthur Brooks, a ”crabby” older fella (Harve Presnell — William H. Macy’s father in law in ”Fargo”) who arrives midseason and unwillingly becomes friends with Dawson. ”I don’t want to give anything away, but Dawson discovers the man has big ties to the film world,” says Berlanti. Finally, watch out for a ”really well known comedian” to play the new principal later in the year.

? Last season Jack (Kerr Smith), the show’s out and proud football player, had his first crush on another man. Smith confirms that this year Jack might have his first full fledged romance. ”I’m all for having him get to kiss someone,” says Smith. Berlanti agrees, but says Jack may have to wait a bit. ”I think he deserves one, but right now the front burner is all about college.” Smith jokingly suggests that if Jack doesn’t meet an eligible guy, he ought to make a play for one of his female friends: ”I’m really hoping for a one night stand with Michelle Williams. That’s something I’d personally like to see happen.” Berlanti, however, finds the idea unlikely: ”One if not both of them would have to be pretty intoxicated for that to happen, but you never know.”

? What do most 12th graders think about besides sex? Two words: college applications. ”Where everyone’s going to go is a huge part of the season,” says Berlanti, who — along with his writing staff — has spent the past two years planning the show’s eventual transition to college life: ”You’ll see hints from the beginning of this season about where they’ll go and what they’ll study. So pay attention.” Well, if it’s attention Berlanti wants, maybe he should sign Yasmine Bleeth to play a naughty college counselor.