May 17, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Hart of Dixie”


HART OF DIXIE barely survived the hunger games known as network scheduling season this year–it won’t be back until midseason, with an abbreviated (and probably final) set of episodes, and even then only so it can hit the 4-season mark that increases syndication prices.  The show’s ratings were passable at best when it aired on Mondays, and a move to low-rated Fridays pretty much finished it off, with ratings that made basic cable look high in comparison.  That’s sad, because Hart is almost alone on television in its commitment to sweetness and romance, and its warmheartedness can be very appealing.

Tonight’s Season 3 finale, written by series creator Leila Gerstein and directed by Bethany Rooney, was built on nuptials and hiccups.  Bluebell hosted three consecutive ceremonies, two of which turned disastrous:  the wedding of Meatball (Matt Lowe) and Lily Anne (Amy Ferguson), called off when it turned out at the alter that the bride and groom knew very little about each other; the renewal of vows for Crickett (Brandi Burkhardt) and Stanley (Tony Cavalero), called off when–in a slight twist on expectations–it was Crickett who came out as gay; and the successful wedding of Brando Wilkes (Laurence Pressman), uncle of heroine Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson), and Sylvie (Patty McCormack), grandmother of Zoe’s ex Joel (Josh Cooke).

The hiccups beset Cricket and also Zoe and Annabeth (Kaitlyn Black), both of whom also had things they needed to say.  Before the end of the episode, Zoe had publicly professed (once again) her love for Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel), which while it didn’t bring them back together, at least prompted him not to leave Bluebell for Atlanta and corporate riches, while Annabeth had decided not to marry her sneaker-hoarding boyfriend.  The latter led to the one big cliffhanger of the hour, when instead of Annabeth’s availability coinciding with her ex, Bluebell mayor Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), finally being able to commit wholeheartedly to her, both Lavon and George Tucker (Scott Porter) showed up at the same dock to tell Lemon (Jaime King)–the ex of both–that they were still in love with her, unfortunately as her singles cruise (with no cell reception) was pulling away.

While silly and not unfamiliar, the finale was nicely constructed, and it featured returns by some of the season’s major guest stars, including Wade’s recent girlfriend, Zoe’s cousin Vivian (Lauren Bittner).  Although Joel and Vivian had family reasons to justify being at Brando and Sylvie’s wedding, both seemed present mainly to bless the possibility of Zoe and Wade finding each other again.  The in-the-flesh arrival of Don Todd (Reginald C. Hayes), however, was a pure Hart of Dixie grace note.  He’s the extreme golfer whose TV show has been a running gag all season, watched obsessively by Lavon and George (especially when they’re depressed and lovelorn), and having him turn up in the season finale (he had romantic issues too, of course) was a swell punchline for patient viewers.

If next season is to be the end for Hart of Dixie, CW should say so out loud and give the show a chance to wrap up its romantic roundelays in fitting fashion.  While hardly the most subtle or profound series on the air, and an oddball compared to the rest of its network’s far more high-concept programming, Hart has been a consistent pleasure to watch once it grew out of its initial gag of big-city Zoe in small-town Bluebell.  It’s largely fulfilled its single goal of spreading charm, and showcases a likable, accomplished ensemble cast.  While its numbers probably don’t justify its staying on the air much longer, it should at least get to go out with a smile.


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."