What would it look like to see Summer from The O.C. in a lab coat with a doctorate under her belt? It would look like Hart of Dixie and it would include more puns using the interchangeability of “heart” and “hart” than I would like.
We find Doctor Zoe Hart, who thanks to a few flashbacks, tells us the story of how she graduated from medical school so she could be a heart surgeon like her dad (ding, there’s pun number one) but lost it all because she was too clinical and didn’t have enough heart (and blammo, there’s pun number two). She’s dropped from the glossy New York hospital where her boyfriend and her mentor both dumped her to a dusty old bus that drops her off in the middle of nowhere. Of course a handsome southern boy comes to her rescue and whisks her into the “backwards” Alabama town of Bluebell. When she arrives, she finds out her mysterious recruiter has passed away and that he inexplicably left his share of his medical practice to her – the other half belongs to a doctor who wants the whole town to himself and isn’t above acting like the big, bad wolf to get it. Seriously, he’s almost hilariously bad.
Rachel Bilson’s Zoe immediately butts heads with the rival doctor’s daughter (Jamie King) who threatens her with a saccharine smile. While I want to root for Zoe, she follows up her stale retorts that, in TV world seem like they should merit a “you go girl” but can’t manage, with her own selfish, delusional demands for things like a Venti soy latte from 11 miles away. It’s too bad Nancy Travis isn’t staying on the series because her sass is the only thing that makes Zoe’s supposed New York attitude tolerable (we’re not all like that, I promise).
Then there’s the element of Zoe’s wealth of suitors. First the attourney with the convenient timing, then the ex-football player mayor, and then the miscreant who’s only concern is himself. One’s the goldenboy protector, one’s the wise guide and one’s the unsavory tempter and we could have guessed at those types with our eyes closed. It’s pretty typical CW fare, yet there’s plenty of story to be had from this fuel.
So we get the set-up, but does the show work? Well, it doesn’t work all that well. It’s not the inexplicable plot points, the typical dry Bilson delivery, or the melodramatic tendencies that do the series harm. It’s not even the lack of a significant spark or draw. It’s the awful, shameful stereotypes that preside all over the place. New Yorkers are stuck up, prissy, selfish people with their heads in the clouds in Hart of Dixie world and Southerners are simple people who can’t see beyond their own backyards. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot in between, which is hopefully a level of depth that will come as the series progresses, but as a first run the drama misses the mark. It may come from the mega-producer team behind Gossip Girl, but hey, everyone has to experience a slump from time to time, right?