Why Katie Holmes couldn't say masturbation in the Dawson's Creek pilot
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The most memorable moment in the Dawson’s Creek pilot from 1998 was when Joey (Katie Holmes) asks her childhood pal Dawson (James Van Der Beek) to reveal how much he masturbates. Dawson recoils at first, but ultimately shouts to Joey through his bedroom window that he does it “usually in the morning, with Katie Couric.”
That line didn’t sit well with The WB’s standards and practices department, so creator Kevin Williamson was told to change it before the drama aired.
“The note was you have to come up with a euphemism for it, and the euphemism became walk the dog,” recalled then programming executive Jordan Levin, who went on to serve as The WB’s president of programming from 2001-2003, before becoming CEO in 2003. “Nobody had ever heard of that before. ”
But that’s exactly what Joey ended up asking Dawson after he insists how they can still talk about anything. “How often do you walk your dog?” she asks.
“What?” he says, with a shock.
“You know what I mean,” Joey responds. “What time a day? How many times a week?”
After Dawson’s Creek debuted, Levin recalls how advertisers and critics were initially put off by the sexuality in the show and how the kids talked like adults.
“They didn’t understand how that was Kevin’s conceit for the series, to write something semi-autobiographical through an adult point of view,” Levin remembers. “Instead of having a narrator, he put those words in the mouths of the kids. The WB’s attitude was that young people always thought they were more articulate than they actually were. It also helped for older audience to reflect on those relatable themes.”