October 8, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Hart of Dixie”


HART OF DIXIE:  Monday 8PM on CW

It’s a strange thing to say about an airy, cornpone rom-com, but HART OF DIXIE is the most grounded show on the CW schedule.  None of the characters have supernatural powers; there are no secret government agencies or international assassins to be seen; franchises aren’t in play.  Returning for its third season, the series is content to be its own modestly likable, mildly silly self.

Last season ended with Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) heading out of Bluebell, Alabama to her old haunts in New York, so the Season 3 premiere, written by series creator Leila Gerstein and directed by Bethany Rooney, needed to get her back.  Five months had passed, and the summer Zoe had intended to spend in the big city clearing her head had spawned a novelist boyfriend (Josh Cooke, wearing an NYU sweatshirt and probably not around for long) and a prized co-op apartment that was just a Brick Breeland (Tim Matheson) reference away from being theirs.  He hadn’t signed it, though, and what with Zoe’s visions of Bluebell denizens in her hospital emergency room, and an actual appearance by Rose (McKaley Miller) to scold her that no one in town had appreciated Zoe’s impersonal e-mailed farewells (minimal cutting and pasting, Zoe protested), soon enough Zoe was on her way to Bluebell, Zabar’s bag in tow, for absolutely positively just a couple of days

Once there, it was pretty much as though she’d never left, with the usual round-up of pastoral romantic intrigue.  Town lawyer George Tucker (Scott Porter), last seen abandoning his practice to go on the road with a band, had scored a minor hit with a song about Zoe, but left show biz to take up secret residence in the local motel, bearded and TV binge-watching, from which Zoe roused him to do battle with Bluebell’s hated rival Filmore and save the Founders Day parade.  Unfortunately for George, he’d decided he was really in love with Tansy (Mircea Monroe), but she’d moved on to the Filmore town attorney; luckily for George, Lavon (Cress Williams) had a lovely cousin in town.  More to the point of upcoming farce, Wade (Wilson Bethel) was still pining after Zoe, but since he didn’t want her to know that, Lemon (Jaime King), his recent business partner and pal, pretended that the two of them were a couple–although actually Lemon was somehow in a torrid romance with Meatball (Matt Lowe).  All of the Lemon-related plot points were given an unintentional zing by the show’s hysterically inept attempts to hide King’s real-life pregnancy.

By the end of the hour, Zoe had decided that Bluebell was her real home after all, she and Wade were making eyes at each other over their respectively current and fictional loves, and all had been restored to the Hart of Dixie norm.  Hart is perhaps the most sheerly pleasant show on television right now, with no ambition at all other than providing an hour of old-fashioned homespun charm every week.  It’s purged itself of its first season’s ridicule of Zoe, and now it just lets its characters gently fall over themselves in their romantic misadventures.  Bilson is properly spunky as Zoe pilots herself alternately into clover and brick walls, and the rest of the cast has the show’s relaxed humor down pat.  The series has never been much of a hit–like most of the CW schedule, it gets ratings that would barely be acceptable on basic cable, let alone a purported broadcast network (Netflix is where CW makes most of its real money), but it’s a very assured piece of work in its own pokey way.  As TV has gotten more intense, having a palate-cleanser like Hart around can be a welcome change of pace.


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."