March 27, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY “Season” Finale Review: “Hart of Dixie”


The network is preserving its contractual rights, but the signs are rife that tonight’s HART OF DIXIE was the last we’ll see of the series.  After being banished to Fridays, it was held for midseason, then left off CW’s extensive list of early renewals; star Rachel Bilson has made it clear that she wants some time for her real-life motherhood; and the producers have been discussing the episode with finality on social media.  Assuming there’s no last second-reprieve, television will have lost, if not exactly an award-caliber piece of work, one of the very few sources of pure buoyancy on the primetime schedule.  Hart of Dixie wanted nothing more than to be lovable, and quite often it was.

This ultimate hour, written by series creator Leila Gerstein and directed by house director David Paymer, certainly played like a final word.  It wrapped up happy endings for just about everyone in Bluebell, Alabama, and especially for its three central couples:  Dr. Zoe Hart (Bilson), her new husband Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel), and their even newer baby boy; Zoe’s frenemy Lemon Breeland (Jaime King) and her new fiancee, the town’s mayor (and Zoe’s best friend) Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams); and lawyer-turned-music-manager George Tucker (Scott Porter) and his recent love Annabeth Nass (Kaitlyn Black, pushed forward to co-lead in recent seasons, after toiling at first as merely Lemon’s BFF).

There were the usual farcical misunderstandings on the way to bliss, which no Hart episode could be without, as Lemon assumed Zoe’s elaborately staged proposal to Wade was Lavon’s to her, Annabeth was worried that George wanted her to move out of Bluebell to be in Nashville with him, and Zoe insisted to everyone that as a doctor, she knew what contractions felt like, and she definitely wasn’t having them at Lemon’s engagement party–right up until her water broke on Lemon’s shoes.  There was sentimentality, as Lemon’s father Brick, the senior member of Zoe’s medical practice and her gruff surrogate dad, finally accepted her as a full partner.  There was a double-meta gag, as Autumn Reeser, Bilson’s former co-star on The OC (also produced by Hart‘s executive producer Josh Schwartz), turned up in a bit as the latest emigre from New York who couldn’t stand the thought of living in Bluebell (and who was in a romantic triangle of her own by the episode’s end).  And finally there was a full-blown musical number for everyone, because why not–albeit one that had to go to comical lengths to hide Bilson’s pregnancy, since it was supposed to take place after Zoe had given birth.

Aside from Bilson’s presence, there was never anything particularly promotable about Hart of Dixie, and the show got off to an uneven start, spending its first season beating the drum of Zoe’s fish-out-of-water status in Bluebell until it hurt one’s ears.  The ratings were only ever OK.  Over time, though, Gerstein and the other writers found the show’s tone in old-fashioned screwball romantic comedy, with characters who were always chasing the wrong partners until it was (almost) too late, and it developed a broad ensemble of colorful recurring players that included Mircea Monroe, Reginald VelJohnson, Laura Bell Bundy, McKaley Miller, Brandi Burkhardt, Matt Lowe and many others as it built Bluebell into a community.

In a television landscape that has come to take itself very seriously indeed, and to conflate comedy with snarkiness, Hart was determinedly airy fun.  (Jane the Virgin probably comes closest to its tone, but Jane mixes murders with its romance, and has a more earnest bent.)  No matter what befell its characters, there was never any doubt that things would work out fine for them in the end, and that defiant sweetness was its own rather admirable form of integrity.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."