No Love for Hart of Dixie
- Tuesday, October 11, 2011
90210, Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and other series feature young and beautiful women and men who desire to hook up in glamorous settings with perfect lighting that highlights their gorgeous features and forms.
All are on the CW network which targets a young female audience and thus its shows feature characters that would appeal to that demographic. Sometimes the stories are compelling, as in Supernatural, a long-running carryover from the WB, but generally speaking, the CW isn't known for being Emmy-bait.
Which makes the new fall series, Hart of Dixie, fit right in. Starring Rachel Bilson as a young doctor newly arrived in the bucolic hamlet of Blue Bell, Alabama, it's yet another fish-out-of-water story of a in-a-hurry city slicker professional who winds up in a sleepy small town and has to learn a new set of values while pondering romance along the way.
With one of the more obviously contrived character names, Zoe Hart trains to be a thoracic cardiac surgeon and gives the valedictory address at her medical school. Afterwards, she is greeted by a sweet old codger by the name of Dr. Harley Wilkes who asks her to join his medical practice in Blue Bell, AL.
She politely refuses and heads off to pursue her dream of being a heart surgeon but is thwarted when her chief of surgery tells her she lacks the empathy for the job. "If you want to be a heart surgeon, then you're gonna work on your own," he says as he admonishes her for not taking the time to read The Notebook to one of her patients when asked.
Telling her she needs to take a year as a General Practioner somewhere, Zoe replies, "Diarrhea and Diaper Rash? Ewww." The chief of surgery denies her the fellowship she was sure she'd get and Zoe decides to take Dr. Wilkes up on his offer to practice in Blue Bell.
By this point in the pilot, I was struggling to believe that this woman had been through college and years of medical school, internship and residency but I was stuck at the sophmore year of college.
Bilson appears to be 20 years old, very attractive and with the flat delivery of the teenage fast food clerk who takes my order at McDonalds.
Lacking the professional demeanor a doctor would acquire after years of arduous training, she belongs at the mall, not in surgery. Bilson is nice to look at, but her performance fatally undermines the audience's ability to believe in her character.
But realism is not what the series is about because the pilot's silly departure from from normal continues. Zoe takes a bus out to the boondocks of coastal Alabama sitting next to a Doritos munching redneck until she's dropped off on the two-lane blacktop to pull her suitcase behind her into town, which apparently has no bus stop.
I'd think a doctor at this point could afford to rent a car from the Mobile airport and actually drive to Blue Bell but then Zoe wouldn't have had the chance to meet George Tucker, who pulls up in his pickup and asks her if she needs a ride. The city girl assumes he's a hillbilly axe murderer until he explains he's a lawyer.
Played winningly, (and believably) by Scott Porter, George is Zoe's first friend, and possibly something more, in the small town. As it turns out, she'll need friends as she soon discovers that Dr. Wilkes died months before and left her the practice. But that's not all, he has a partner, Dr. Brick Breeland (old pro Tim Matheison) who's outraged to learn this pretty young thing owns half the practice.
He makes her feel unwelcome and Zoe's poor interpersonal skills don't help. Soon she's experiencing a mixture of warm southern hospitality from the practice's nurse, played by veteran actress Nancy Travis, and icy condescension of Lemon Breeland, Brick's steel magnolia daughter who's engaged to George and instantly sees Zoe as a rival. Maybe it's the supershort skirts Zoe wears that contribute to the Breelands' dislike of Dr. Hart for both personal and professional reasons.
But this is a Hollywood version of a southern town and so there are more colorful characters to meet. Zoe learns that the African-American mayor of Blue Bell is successful NFL star Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), who welcomes Zoe and lets her stay at a rather run down house on his estate's property within shouting distance of Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel) a good ole' boy who we soon learn will be the bad boy to George's nice one as he begins hinting to Zoe about hooking up.
Soon after visiting a bar and having too much beer, Zoe finds herself doing just that on top of Wade in the driver's seat of his car until she backs into his car horn, which of course toots, "Dixie." How quickly and inexplicably the proud Zoe has fallen.
But there are more shocks to come when Zoe learns that the reason kindly Dr. Wilkes wanted her to come on down was because—he was her father. Now more motivated to stick it out in Blue Bell, the redoubtable Zoe has an opportunity to show her mettle at a social event at the Breeland's when an overweight young woman starts feeling badly and Zoe instantly diagnoses that she's pregnant and in labor.
The difficulty delivery requires that Dr. Hart demonstrate her surgical skills and the child and mother are soon out of danger, to Brick Breeland's grudging admiration.
But all is not well in Blue Bell. Lemon is determined to humiliate her perceived rival while hiding her own secrets and pain and Brick Breeland is still determined to run Zoe out of town. In the second episode, Zoe and Brick actually argue about the practice in front of a patient, and Zoe discusses a patient's condition with bar patrons, both unthinkably unprofessional transgressions.
Zoe continues to be her own worst enemy with her zero people skills, parading around in short shorts and hooker boots. We know she will continue to be pulled between good boy George and bad boy Wade while occasionally practicing effective medicine found only on television.
No, Hart of Dixie, like some other medically-themed series, isn't about medicine; in this show, it's about a young girl's fantasy of being a pretty professional with really great clothes, who has to deal with mean people who just don't understand her.
*This review first published 10/11/2011
**Watch Hart of Dixie Mondays of the CW
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