December 12, 2012



Some smart shifts in emphasis have left HART OF DIXIE in fine shape as it reaches the midpoint of its second season, changes that were evident in tonight’s midseason finale, written by series creator Leila Gerstein and directed by Patrick Norris.

Season 1 of Hart was essentially Gilmore Girls meets “Southern Exposure,” the travails of New York (part-) Jewish doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) as she faced down the resistance and eccentricities of her colorful and very foreign new town–which was Bluebell, Alabama, instead of rural Alaska.  Zoe’s bumbles in her personal and professional life were very much the focus, and while Bilson is charming company, it was all a little grindingly one-note.  Hart 2.0 has widened its perspective a bit and become more of an all-purpose ensemble rom-com.

The character who’s benefited most from the new scheme is Lemon Breeland (Jaime King), who’s more or less now the co-lead with Zoe.  In Season 1, Lemon was the somewhat priggish Southern belle who was Zoe’s rival for the affections of town lawyer George Tucker (Scott Porter); Lemon lived at home with her father, senior doctor Brick (Tim Matheson), and mostly gritted her teeth in Zoe’s direction while smiling prettily.  The decision to have George and Lemon break up at the altar freed both character and actress.  Lemon’s started her own business, moved out (into George’s old apartment–it’s a very civilized show) and now is concerned with her once-requited feelings for Mayor Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams).  Much of the midseason finale revolved around what appears to be the end of Lavon’s relationship with guest character Ruby (Golden Brooks), who never entirely made sense as she was a business tycoon who returned home to Bluebell, decided on a whim to run for Mayor against Lavon (shades of the Maura Tierney character in this season’s Good Wife), while meanwhile flirting with and then romancing her opponent, who was also her high school old flame.  The show could never seem to figure out how villainous it wanted Ruby to be, and while Brooks brought some edge to a show that can be bland, she never became necessary.  Currently the obstacle between Lavon and Lemon is that he blames her for Ruby’s departure, but however long that takes to play out, the two characters are among the show’s best.

As for Zoe, instead of bouncing as she did last season between George and bartender/sensitive stud Wade (Wilson Bethel), this season has found her entering into an increasingly serious romance with Wade, one that’s been working for the show since the vast differences between them provide plenty of material.   While Zoe’s screw-ups still have a prominent part in many episodes, she’s now accepted as part of the town, and Lemon makes a fool of herself almost as often as Zoe does.

Hart has also been able to develop romances for its supporting characters to good effect, albeit in a oddly quasi-incestuous style.  George is now involved with Wade’s ex-wife Tancy (Mircea Monroe, also a bright presence as the bimbo co-star of the show-within-the-show on Episodes), while Brick is dating George’s shopoholic ex Shelby (Laura Bell Bundy).  (All these mismatched couples recently prompted an episode to genially nod in the direction of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

Hart of Dixie is a minor pleasure, and even on its best day, its idiosyncratic small-town humor can’t compare to a single episode of Gilmore Girls.  (Those longing for the sounds of Amy Sherman-Palladino dialogue will have to wait for the 2013 return of Bunheads.)  Its ratings are correspondingly mild, mostly doing about the 0.5 that seems to be enough to survive on CW these days (Hart returns from its seasonal rest in mid-January).  Nevertheless, the show has found its voice as a series, toning down the big-city vs. small-town dissonance and settling into its place as a likable light comedy of romantic error.

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."