May 8, 2013



Sometimes shows overthink their season finales, and that may have been the case with tonight’s HART OF DIXIE.  The show has gotten along quite well all season in its native Bluebell, Alabama, but for the finale series creator Leila Gerstein and fellow Executive Producer Len Goldstein broke the characters up into unfamiliar pairings and set them off in different directions for most of the hour (directed by series regular Tim Matheson).  All that effort didn’t accomplish much, but there wasn’t any serious damage done to what’s been a mostly satisfying Season 2 for the just-renewed series.

Gerstein and the other writer/producers made some big decisions for Season 2, and almost all of them improved the show.  The biggest was to largely jettison the central (sometimes, it seemed, only) joke of Season 1, which was the glaring “fish out of water” status of New Yorker Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) once she’d moved to Bluebell.  Gerstein was wise enough to realize that after a year, Zoe was now part of the town, and while she still did plenty to humiliate herself, it was because of her own foolishness and not because she was a snob who hated living there.  For that matter, although Zoe remains the show’s focal point, the series became much more of a ensemble piece, with meatier roles not just for her two on-and-off romantic interests, bartender Wade (Wilson Bethel) and lawyer George (Scott Porter) and her rival Lemon (Jaime King), but for Zoe’s buddy Mayor Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams) and Zoe’s reluctant medical partner Brick Breeland (Matheson), who by the end of Season 2 was less of a crotchety foe to her and more of a surrogate father.  There were rich story arcs even for recurring characters like Annabeth (Kaitlyn Black), who became involved with Lavon, Tansy (Mircea Monroe),who was George’s girlfriend (not to mention Wade’s ex-wife), and Shelby (Laura Bell Bundy), now Brick’s fiancee (after dating George).

All of this widened the universe of Bluebell and deepened its emotions.  What once seemed like a pale imitation of Gilmore Girls may still not be Gilmore (because no one writes like Amy Sherman-Palladino), but it summons up a scent of that show’s small-town fairyland aroma.  Bilson, a terrifically charming actress, benefited from having colors to play other than embarrassment and snit, and the other actors had interesting new sides to their initially one-note characters.  The show’s plotting was still uneven (so was Gilmore‘s)–the mayoral election/rekindled romance between Lavon and Ruby (Golden Brooks) never really worked, even though it showed up in several permutations, and there was an episode about a fake Englishman that was just nutty–but the show dug into its central relationships, and those made enough emotional sense for rom-com purposes.

The finale tossed some of this into the air to set up cliffhangers for Season 3, and they didn’t feel particularly organic.  There’d been hints for the past few episodes that Lemon’s cousin Jonah (Travis Van Winkle), also a doctor, was rubbing Zoe in exactly the kind of wrong way that can easily lead to contrived romantic sparks, and now they’ll both be spending the summer in New York, where he showed up in dapper evening dress for the wedding that had brought Zoe to the Big Apple.  Meanwhile, George is apparently abandoning his legal practice to go on the road as a back-up singer for Lily Anne (Amy Ferguson)–which, while unlikely, at least may mean we’ll get more Lily Anne next season, and she’s usually a hoot.  (It’s too bad if Mircea Monroe’s Tansy is really gone, though–although her absence may be due to her prior commitment to Showtime’s Episodes.)  While all that was going on, new business partners Wade and Lemon–a fun new friendship that hopefully won’t become more–were off to Birmingham to try and book Gloriana for their restaurant (in magic TV fashion, they never made the meeting but the band showed up anyway), and Lavon led a mission to the next town to rescue his kidnapped alligator (the first Argo joke in that storyline was very funny, although by the third time the script made the same joke, diminishing returns had set in).

Hart of Dixie deserved its renewal, both creatively and in the ratings (where it was a notch ahead of its bubble-show CW competition), but Season 3 may be a challenge.  Romantic triangle shows run the risk of becoming monotonous if the key character just bounces every season from one beau to the other, and introducing new romantic leads like Jonah for the sake of variety can feel arbitrary and unsatisfying.  Also, Jaime King is pregnant in real life, and it seems unlikely that they’ll incorporate that into the show, since Lemon doesn’t even have a boyfriend at this point; since Bluebell’s weather doesn’t accommodate much heavy winter clothing, that may mean lots of episodes where she’s in limited scenes and carrying big packages.  It will help, though, that Bluebell now has other characters and storylines who can take on some of the weight.  Shows built around charm can easily fade, but so far, Hart is holding its own.


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."