TV Evangelist: Hart of Dixie
When you're stuck in a ball gown it's best to place your hand directly underneath your chin.
Two weeks ago, Daily Life writer Rob Moran asked, with not a small amount of justification, why women’s magazines insisted on promoting people such as Rachel Bilson.
And, in this TV Evangelist Post, I should begin by first admitting that such a travesty is not solely the fault of women’s magazines. I, an ordinary woman a few years north of 30, happen to find Rachel Bilson irresistible. It’s a long story I can’t attempt justify here but perhaps my fondness for her will justify why I was drawn to Hart of Dixie. Created by Leila Gerstein, a producer of Gossip Girl and The OC, it’s a muddled amalgam of Northern Exposure, Friday Night Lights and Gilmore Girls - a fragile bubble of froth and romance that almost wilfully refuses to stay interesting. But, as I will hope to convince you in the following few paragraphs, this ends up being of little consequence.
So, Bilson plays Zoe Hart, an over-achieving doctor from New York marooned in a small Alabama town. The townsfolk regard her with some suspicion and hostility and she, them. There are all the usual archetypes: the cocky, handsome, good old boy, (played by Scott Porter, the quarterback from Friday Night Lights) Prim Southern Belle, (Jamie King) a wise, serene black patriarch, skilled at giving advice (Cress Williams, also from Friday Night Lights), a lovable redneck, (Wilson Bethel) and a few gossipy ladies and gents in straw hats thrown in for good measure. There are other characters and plot points but they seem to exist only to serve the essential story of Zoe, her fish-out-of-water missteps and search for love.
A cynic might be able to guess the character trajectory from a country mile away: the upstart, big city doctor looks down on the good people of Bluebell, Alabama, until she falls in love with the good old boy, (currently engaged to the prim southern belle but I can’t help but feel that’s subject to change). As she falls in love, the doctor, in her fancy ankle booties, will realise that while some folk might be eccentric and old fashioned, they still have the biggest hearts this side of the Mississippi. And even when she is given a reason to leave – perhaps the long-hoped-for transfer arrives in the final season? – she stays put because she has grown to love the whole gosh-darn town.
This is just a guess. I’ll admit it’s easy to take a contemptuous view of the show, but there is also something undeniably lovely about it. No, not the stereotypes, or Bilson’s acting, which might generously be described as uneven. Perhaps it is the idea that there exists a place where the biggest problem is what your little sister will wear to the beauty pageant or if the Sherriff will arrest you for being tipsy while driving your pickup on the wrong side of the dirt road.
So, if you’re a person who requires a pleasant distraction after a bad day at work or you find yourself alone and miserable on a rainy Saturday night; if you’ve just had a fight with your boyfriend, (I’m going to generalise wildly here and suggest that no man is watching this show alone) then Hart of Dixie is for you. If the Gilmore Girls, with all its rapid-fire, pop culture-laden, girly-love chatter and New England charm is a double shot latte with a brownie on the side, Hart of Dixie, with all of its sun-dappled scenery and flowery life observations, is a thick slice of cherry pie with ... a Valium. It’s as predictable as any day-time soap, (with just as many flashbacks) and almost no plot twists. It also boasts medium-to- high-production values, (and ankle booties).
It’s true, you don’t take Valium if you’re trying to actively partake in the subtle textures and lessons that make up life but, if you, like me (and evidently several womens magazines) are fixated on Rachel Bilson, and your Snuggy looks particularly wearable tomorrow night...
Hart of Dixie airs Saturdays at 6.30 on FOX8