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'Hart of Dixie': First impressions

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The cast of 'Hart Of Dixie'

© The CW

To say I was looking forward to Hart of Dixie would be kind of understating the matter. As a huge fan of The OC, hearing about a show reuniting Rachel Bilson and executive producer Josh Schwartz got me rather excited indeed. Who doesn't love Summer?

Well, Hart of Dixie will certainly keep you happy if you're missing Miss Roberts. Bilson is essentially playing Summer as a grown-up doctor - she's acerbic, a bit bitchy, and even says "eww". This kind of made me joyful, but it's not exactly showing Bilson's range, which I'm sure she has.

Actually, Bilson's character Zoe Hart - thankfully, she makes a joke about how going into cardiac surgery was preordained from her name, which makes that all a bit knowing - is not very nice at all.

We sympathise with her because Bilson has endless charm and charisma, but this is a woman who wrinkles her nose at the man sitting next to her on the bus, tosses the Southern cuisine into the trash because she thinks it looks gross, and laughs at new home Bluebell's traditional "Belles". She's not Miss Sensitive.

Of course, she can't be nice when we meet her, or there would be no "life lessons" for her to learn during her stay in Bluebell. That's clearly the whole point of Hart of Dixie, which transports Zoe from Manhattan to Alabama after she fails to get a fellowship. If you haven't seen episode one, spoilers follow...

She's advised to spend a year as a GP if she wants to progress her career, and she's been getting postcards from this Southern doctor, Harvey Wilkes, asking her to head on down and join his practice. With nothing to lose, she decides to go for it. But when she gets there, she discovers Dr. Wilkes died four months ago - his receptionist has been sending the postcards. But why? Well, Harvey left her half his practice...

That's not all, though - Zoe soon finds out that she's sharing the surgery with Dr. Brick Breeland, who's not happy about it at all and plans to contest the will. And what follows are various scrapes with the local residents involving an alligator called Burt Reynolds, a drunk make-out with her neighbour Wade in a car with a dixie horn, the delivery of a baby and a run in with Lemon (yes, that is really her name, but then her dad's called Brick), who's engaged to Zoe's new friend George. Oh, and she also caused a car crash involving George by signing off a blind man's driving form. Oops.

It all becomes a bit much for Zoe, so when her mum arrives advising her to leave, she decides to head on back. But after delivering the aforementioned baby - and encouraging the mother to stand up to her mother - Zoe's all warmth-filled and finally has good feelings towards Bluebell. So when she discovers that Harley was actually her father, and her mother's been keeping that from her all these years, she decides she might stick around after all.

Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) in 'Hart Of Dixie'

© The CW



Of course, lots of potential storylines were sprinkled throughout the pilot for us to look forward to. There's clearly going to be some kind of romantic plot involving the Zoe-George-Lemon-Wade quadrangle, and it seems from Lemon's engagement party that she had or has something going on with the mayor, Lavon Hayes. Lavon, a former linebacker who refers to himself in the third person, might just be one of my favourite characters.

Brick (oh God, he's called Brick) is also good value as the "villain" Zoe will have to face this season. He's pretty chilling when he compares Zoe to Hurricane Katrina and BP - "We keep the rot outside from fouling our community. Believe you me, we are going to chase you away from our waters." Might be a bit harsh.

But even when they work together to deliver that baby, he still seems to resent Zoe's presence. The fact that he's Lemon's father just adds a whole other layer of drama. While we're on the subject, the short Lemon-Zoe introductory scene was filled with snark, and hopefully we'll get more of that.

The other characters are fun, too - the show's assembled a great cast, with Jaime King being sweetly sour as Lemon and the fab Scott Porter playing a good nice guy. I'm really disappointed that we won't be seeing any more of Nancy Travis, who played the nurse Mrs H - Travis is part of ABC's Last Man Standing, but she was great fun in this and the show's going to miss her. And we didn't get much of Wilson Bethel, but if he makes Wade a good bad boy, it could be an interesting watch.

Bilson's also fun and endlessly watchable, even though she has a potentially annoying voiceover and has to deliver clunky lines like: "I believe I could do some good here" or: "Don't ever forget how much strength you have." It feels much more comfortable when she's not being so earnest - I liked her drinking from a winebox as she staggered along the road, suggesting that Dr Wilkes was "nutballs", and asking why everyone is "so obsessed" with bedside manner.

There are indeed some enjoyable lines in the Hart of Dixie pilot - "can we just go home and discuss this in therapy like normal people?" - but there's no denying it's absolutely stuffed with cheese. From Zoe's New York boss advising: "If you want to be a heart surgeon, you've got to work on your own" to the rousing pop rock and slow motion when the baby is born to Zoe speaking to Harley's grave, Hart of Dixie definitely lays it on thick.

I'm also not sure whether real Southern residents will necessarily be happy with the depiction of the South as some foreign land, stuck in the past, with stereotypical country music playing over the top at all times. Perhaps it's playing up to Zoe's closed-mindedness, but the writers will need to be careful to make sure they're making fun of the right people.

Still, Hart of Dixie - despite the cheese and clunkiness - was an enjoyable way to spend 40 minutes. It's comfort food on television. Or maybe it could be compared to a long soak in a hot tub. It's probably not the next Gilmore Girls or Dawson's Creek, which seems to be the ethos it's aiming for, but with some funny lines and enjoyable drama, it could just be our next guilty pleasure.

Did you enjoy Hart of Dixie? Leave your comments below!
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