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CATCHING UP WITH: Hart of Dixie

The Hart of Dixie title card

Initially, I never reviewed the pilot for Hart of Dixie. This wasn’t due to lack of intent, but lack of time. That, combined with the fact that the show is enjoyable but lightweight. Now that we’ve seen five episodes of it, here are my thoughts…

The Prognosis: The show is doing alright in the ratings. They’ve got their back nine order (meaning, we’ll get a full 22-episode season), but unless they completely rebound from a recent dip, they’re in a danger zone. That said, their most recent episode had hints of said rebound, so things could go either way.

The Good: The show has a very likeable and fun-to-watch cast. Rachel Bilson is undeniably something I’ve never not had fun watching, and she’s surrounded by a fine crew of affable actors: Friday Night Lights’ Scott Porter, everyman-in-everything Cress Williams, and in the role of the likeable douchebag, a very charming Wilson Brethel. Even Jaime King, whose character is potentially maddening to the point of distraction, somehow squeezes just enough sympathy out of  her character to make her a great watch. New recurring fixture Addie, played by Eisa Davis, is also a stern breath of fresh air.

In fact, the show itself is defined by that element: fun. The stakes aren’t very high, the pains are gentle, and it owes more to generations of romantic comedies than it does to any medical drama. It’s fun to watch the entire town go ‘crazy’ due to a heat wave, or to see what the hell Lemon wears on a weekly basis. The banter, while not as sharp as it could be, is gentle and delivered with spunk. The show is an easy diversion after a long day, and that’s its biggest strength.

The Bad: However, the fact that the show drifts by on a lack of weight is both a boon and a detriment. Ultimately, though I enjoy spending 40 minutes a week with these characters, I’m rarely invested in the outcomes of the episodic issues. I’m more interested in the romantic entanglements than Zoe’s convoluted attempts to ingratiate herself with a town that views her as a hostile outsider. And in fact, though I love Rachel Bilson, ultimately its lead is the shows biggest anchor. Zoe Hart as written is spastic, mean, arrogant and not particularly likeable, and Bilson is using every trick in her arsenal to make her lovable. It’s working so far, but sometimes you can see the gap between the performance and the character, and that takes you completely out of it.

Best episode so far: “Parades and Pariahs” (1.02), written by Leila Gerstein and directed by Jason Ensler

It was difficult to pick a ‘best’ episode of Hart of Dixie, because all five have scored a solid 6/10 on my inner scale: alright, enjoyable, but not really going beyond that. Blandly enjoyable. White noise. Cotton candy. “Parades and Pariahs” felt like the episode where the character conflicts and the formula worked best, where I most felt engaged by the story, and the episode where Zoe herself was at her least grating. Her semi-heroic story, sacrificing herself to protect the reputation of one of her patients, was actually pretty emotionally potent. Plus, we got that excellent coda with Nancy Travis, as she hands over the reins of the practice to Zoe as she goes off to pursue her own dreams.

Worst episode so far: “Faith & Infidelity” (1.05) written by Debra Fordham and directed by Ron Lagomarsino

Again, it’s difficult to pick a ‘worst’ episode of Hart of Dixie because the show is so consistent in its quality. That said, this episode was an easy pick for the bottom not because it was bad, but because of the apathy that plagued me the entire episode. I didn’t care about the minister and his wife. I didn’t care about Lavon and the itching cream. Zoe, I felt, was at her most grating. The saving grace of the episode (because every episode so far has had a scene or two that elevate it) was the scene between Lemon and George in which they finally discuss the New York Issue between them. Beyond that, the episode wasn’t bad, just boring.

My verdict: I think the show will be a must-watch by end of season, if they can figure out how to make these characters both fun and compelling. Until then, it’s decent enough fluff to entertain me every week.

What do you think of how the show’s doing?

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