HART OF DIXIE: SEASON 1 – DVD review

I can give you several reasons why I shouldn’t like “Hart of Dixie”:

  • It’s “Northern Exposure” without the indie edge and truly quirky characters.
  • It’s an unabashed romantic dramedy in the tradition of Hallmark and Lifetime movies.
  • It’s driven by emotion and plot . . . not characters.
  • The main character doesn’t act like a trained doctor—more like the wannabe lawyer in “Legally Blonde.”
  • And it’s formulaic and even predictable to some degree—as familiar a fish-out-of-water story as all get-out.

Did I just say that? Next thing you know I’ll be saying something like “All y’all ought to give this a chance,” because I can’t for the life of me explain why I like this 60-minute comedy-drama.

I suppose it could be Rachel Bilson (“The O.C.”), who plays Dr. Zoe Hart, but as likable as she is, the by-the-numbers scripts really don’t give her much of a chance to show off her acting chops.

Or it could be the “Mean Girls” set-up, with Jaime King playing Lemon Breeland, the ringleader of a pack of Southern belles who resent this New Yorker who relocated to tiny BlueBell, Alabama to accept an offer from a kindly old Dr. Harley Wilkes to help him with his practice . . . only when she arrives, she’s told that Dr. Wilkes died and left her his half of the practice.

That’s right, half. Another hurdle Zoe Hart faces is Dr. Brick Breeland, Dr. Wilkes’ partner who had wanted to take over the whole practice himself. And Dr. Breeland happens to be Lemon’s daddy.

The potential suitors (Wilson Bethel, Scott Porter, Wes Brown) angle doesn’t hurt, nor does having a former NBA star (Cress Williams) as mayor, and one of the few BlueBellians sympathetic to the new doctor.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s the Mayberry feel (if Mayberry were set on the Gulf Coast) that this show has that connects with all of those nostalgia neurons in me, with BlueBell’s quaint traditions, small-town values, and the gradual way that it works its magic on the cynical and resistant Dr. Zoe Hart.

Put it all together and it’s a guilty pleasure. There’s no other way to describe “Hart of Dixie.” It’s as sweet and wholesome as the title suggests, but somehow those 60 minutes pass by quickly and you’re thinking, “just one more episode.”

Twenty-two Season 1 episodes are included five single-sided discs, housed in a standard-size keep case with two plastic pages to help hold the discs. The keep case is tucked into a sturdy cardboard slipcase, and a full-color foldout gives annotations and credits for the episodes:

1) “Pilot.” A handsome lawyer, a local bad boy, an acid-sweet Southern belle, and a gator named Burt Reynolds . . . BlueBell’s residents confound New Yorker Dr. Zoe Hart during her first days in town.

2) “Parades & Pariahs.” Zoe joins the mayor on his Founder’s Day Parade float, then drives her bid for popularity right off the road to save a patient in distress.

3) Gumbo & Glory.” Zoe’s got her eye on winning BlueBell’s gumbo contest to score some new patients, while Lavon’s got his eye on Didi (Nadine Velazquez), Brick and Zoe’s new receptionist.

4) “Faith & Infidelity.” A scandal erupts when Zoe learns shocking news about the local minister and his wife (Peter MacKenzie and Kerry O’Malley). Lemon and George’s civic projects vie for Lavon’s redevelopment funds.

5) “In Havoc & in Heat.” A heat wave makes for crazy behavior. Zoe’s inhibitions toward Wade evaporate, while Lemon’s emotions get the best of her when Lavon dates Didi.

6) “The Undead & the Unsaid.” Zoe thinks she’s seen a ghost. Plus, her mother (JoBeth Williams) visits in hopes of reconciling, and Lavon won’t authorize the purchase of Lemon and George’s dream home.

7) “The Crush & the Crossbow.” A handsome vet (Brown) asks Zoe out on a date. Lavon and Lemon co-host the Junior League’s annual turtle race, and an unexpected visitor stirs up trouble for Wade.

8) “Homecoming & Coming Home.” BlueBell gets its game on! Zoe plans a party, while George and Wade plan to prank their high school nemesis with Lemon, who still has feelings for Lavon.

9) “The Pirate & the Practice.” Zoe prepares for a New York Thanksgiving, BlueBell prepares for the town’s annual Planksgiving, and Brick prepares to own the practice if Zoe can’t meet her patient quota.

10) “Hairdos & Holidays.” The Christmas season is in full swing—and full-blown reality—when Lemon and Lavon support opposing candidates for the Miss Cinnamon Cider beauty pageant.

11) “Hell’s Belles.” Zoe’s family roots lead to a legacy with the BlueBell Belles, to Lemon’s extreme displeasure. Wade helps Lavon get back into the dating scene.

12) “Mistresses & Misunderstandings.” Zoe is ecstatic to find a new friend in AnnaBeth (Kaitlyn Black), but it must remain a secret from Lemon, who is campaigning to become the Belles’ new Memory Matron.

13) “Sweetie Pies & Sweaty Palms.” The Sweetie Pie Dance brings romance for some, stress for the rest, and surprises for Zoe and Judson (Brown), Lavon and Didi, and George and Lemon.

14) “Aliens & Aliases.” Wade convinces Lemon to dress up as Joelle (Courtney Parks) as part of a scheme. A secret involving Lavon puts Zoe in an uncomfortable position.

15) “Snowflakes & Soulmates.” How much bad luck can a snow day bring? Lavon’s parents (Ernie Hudson and Valarie Pettiford) visit, George and Lemon consider eloping, and Zoe anticipates an important call.

16) “Tributes & Triangles.” Zoe helps Lavon host a cocktail party for BlueBell’s Man of the Year, George Tucker, but her speech reveals more than she intended.

17) “Heart to Hart.” Lemon plans to keep her enemies close—and her relationship intact—by inviting Zoe and her father, Dr. Ethan Hart (Gary Cole), to dinner. Plus, Wade creates cocktails for a contest at the Rammer Jammer.

18) “Bachelorettes & Bullets.” Zoe connects with a patient (Justin Hartley), Magnolia (Claudia Lee) has “interesting” plans for big sister Lemon’s bachelorette bash, and George and Lavon confront a bear . . . and a devastating revelation.

19) “Destiny & Denial.” Wade wakes up with a massive hangover—and an uninvited houseguest—after a wild night of partying. George wakes up in a great mood after a night contemplating his new freedom.

20) “The Race & the Relationship.” Wade asks Zoe to be his partner for the BlueBell Battle, which offers folks a chance to show off their teamwork skills and win $5000. George and Lemon give their relationship another chance.

21) “Disaster Drills & Departures.” Zoe blames herself when a friend faces a health crisis. Wade explores the idea of opening his own bar, while Lemon plans a romantic night for George.

22) “The Big Day.” George and Lemon’s wedding day dawns bright and beautiful, but storm clouds are brewing. Wade and Zoe find themselves in close quarters in this torrential Season 1 finale.

Video:
“Hart of Dixie” is presented in matted widescreen format, “preserving the aspect ratio of its original television exhibition enhanced for widescreen TVs.” The series was shot with a Sony CineAlta F35.

Audio:
The audio is surprisingly a Dolby Digital 5.1 that, for a dialogue-driven show, seems like overkill. But the mix gives a nice sense of ambience.

Extras:
Unaired scenes are included on discs 2-5, while a short gag reel appears on the fourth disc and a featurette, “Straight from the Hart of Dixie,” gives an overview of the show with some background on Disc 5.

Bottom line:
As TV melodramas go, “Hart of Dixie” is fun and satisfying, with just enough quirkiness and comedy to offset the formulaic aspects, and just enough warmth to stave off the cynicism. Bilson doesn’t carry the show—it’s the whole package that somehow works.

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