Vicki Briganti – CW50 Writer / Producer / Editor

“Diarrhea and diaper rash, ew!” That’s how Zoe feels about spending a year in Blue Bell, Alabama as a general practitioner.

Beautiful actress Rachel Bilson joins the CW family in Hart of Dixie as Dr. Zoe Hart, a cardiothoracic surgeon-hopeful who’s finished her residency in New York City. At her graduation ceremony, an apparent stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes, hears her speech and offers her a job at his family practice in Alabama. She wrinkles her nose at his gesture since she plans to land a prestigious fellowship in her hometown. However, the chief of staff at her chosen NYC hospital denies her application telling her, “You need to see patients as people to help, not puzzles to solve.” He advises her that after she completes 12 months as a GP, she can reapply for her dream fellowship.

To make matters worse, her boyfriend dumps her. Poor Zoe feels she has hit “rock bottom” as she boards a bus to Blue Bell wearing her best Chanel jacket with the intention of taking Dr. Wilkes up on his earlier offer. As you might suspect, big city Zoe does not fit into a small town. Early on, she hitches a ride with “golden boy” local attorney, George (Scott Porter), and the sparks fly. She also has instant chemistry with her hunky neighbor, Wade (Wilson Bethel), and a mean-girl misunderstanding with southern belle/social climber, Lemon (Jaime King). Yes, you read that right. Her name is Lemon.

Mix in a shallow, self-involved mother, a distant and absent father, and a kindly office manager who wants to help Zoe even though they start off on the wrong foot. There’s a modicum of humor from the city mayor, football hero Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), whose claim to fame is referring to himself in the third person.

Rachel Bilson

Rachel Bilson as Dr. Zoe Hart

TV To Talk About

The first reaction I had after watching the pilot was: “Hart of Dixie reminds me of other shows.” Mostly former WB shows. Everwood (doctor in a small town); Felicity (love triangle); Gilmore Girls (interesting minor characters and female relationships); and a soundtrack recorded by Reba.

Rachel Bilson dominates the show. She’s best known for her role as Summer Roberts on The O.C., created by her friend Josh Schwartz who is an executive producer on Hart of Dixie. Unfortunately, I’d say the CW missed the mark casting Rachel as an aspiring surgeon.

There are a few key ingredients to great acting. One is talent; the other is believability. Based on an emotional scene in a cemetery, I’d say Rachel has some talent. That was a touching moment in the pilot. But Rachel Bilson as a doctor? A surgeon? Not so believable. Compared to Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh’s focused, cardio-obsessed character Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, Rachel seems like an amateur.

Perhaps if Rachel spent some time watching real doctors or the producers hired an acting coach in addition to the dialect coach they have on set, her believability would ratchet up a notch. I question the writers. No doctor I know would casually ask a patient, “What’s up? You sick?” Doctors are thorough, professional, and supremely confident. They wouldn’t give morphine to someone without looking at a chart or asking a simple question like, oh, I don’t know, maybe: “Are you allergic to morphine?”

Kudos to the seasoned actors in the pilot, Tim Matheson who plays Dr. Brick Breeland, and Nancy Travis who plays Mrs. H. I was enjoying the scenes between Zoe and Mrs. H and curious how the writers would develop their relationship. Then I read online that Nancy’s character will be written out after the second episode so she can work full-time on another network’s new comedy. Good for Nancy, bad for Hart of Dixie. Nancy Travis raised the acting bar.

While I was online, I read complaints from people concerned about the southern stereotypes. The guys drive pick-up trucks; they mention the confederacy. Personally, I think those details are thrown in to highlight the fish-out-of-water dynamic more than an attempt to be one-dimensional. From the drooping Spanish moss to the gazebo on the pier, I found the establishing cinematography to be beautiful. It creates the right mood.

If you’re a Rachel Bilson fan, or a former fan of any of the WB shows I mentioned, I would make a note to tune in for the first episode. I won’t spoil the story by revealing too much, but it appears several love triangles are quickly developing. You won’t want to be left behind later in the season playing catch up.

Hart of Dixie premieres Monday, September 26th from 9:00pm-10:00pm on CW50.

>> More Motor City Musing With Vicki Briganti


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