September 28, 2011

TV: Hart of Dixie (CW, Mon 9)

Hart of Dixie returns to one of TV's standard formulas -- the big-city person forced to live in a small town -- and executes it with a fair amount of charm. What we have here is a new version of Northern Exposure, with Rachel Bilson taking the Rob Morrow role, and Bluebell, Alabama filling in for Cicely, Alaska. The tone may also remind you a bit of Gilmore Girls, as will the set; after the pilot, the show will use the old Stars' Hollow backdrop.

Dr. Zoe Hart (Bilson) wants to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, but she has no people skills, and her supervisors insist that she can't tend to the hearts of others until she gets in touch with her own. (The actual dialogue is almost precisely that treacly.) So, it's off to Bluebell, where a kindly old doctor has been trying to get her to join his general practice ever since she graduated from medical school. Upon arrival, she finds that Dr. Kindly is recently dead, and that he's left half of his practice to her.

Bluebell is, of course, populated with a host of lovable small-town locals and eccentrics. There's Dr. Brick Breeland (Tim Matheson), the doctor who owns the other half of the practice, and who wants nothing to do with Zoe. Brick's daughter, Lemon (Jaime King), is the local Queen Belle, engaged to the town's golden boy, George (Scott Porter).

George is one potential romantic interest for Zoe, but there's also bad boy Wade (Wilson Bethel). And the town's mayor (Cress Williams) is a former NFL star (and so far, the only black guy in town) who owns a pet crocodile named Burt Reynolds.

The pilot of a show like that has obvious beats to hit, and you won't be surprised by a moment of it -- Zoe reluctantly goes to Alabama, hates the town and the people, alienates everyone, finally starts to win people over with her skill, and begins to understand the place enough to decide to stay. But the cast is very likable; Bilson has a knack for being just snarky enough to get laughs without making herself hatable, and she has particularly good chemistry with both Porter and Williams.

So, yeah, the pilot is absolutely predictable, but the execution and the casting are good enough that I'll give it a few more weeks to see what happens beyond the establishing of the premise.

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