Hart of Dixie's Alabama: Charming Homage or Condescending Cartoon?

If you ever have a couple hours to kill, ask a Southerner how accurately Hollywood portrays the South. From the screwy accents to the cartoonish stereotypes (positive OR negative), there is probably not a region on earth more regularly slandered in movies and on television. This tradition continued in a big way on Monday, thanks to The CW's Hart of Dixie—which, even without its mind-numbing southern stereotypes (as conceived by Los Angeles writers), would have been the worst new drama on network television anyway. It's some straight-up garbage, y'all.

Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) is a tiny valley girl in Prada heels and clown makeup who we learn is apparently a top medical student in Manhattan despite her inability to convincingly pronounce medical terminology. When she's informed that she won't get a certain heart surgery fellowship until she works "on her own heart," she hops on a bus (the next day?) and moves to Alabama, where she can take over the medical practice of some old dude who approached her at her graduation this one time. It should go without saying that Zoe immediately encounters a dozen colorful locals (with wildly differing accents), including at least three possible hunky love interests, a mean girl or two, and some barefoot inbred types who don't realize they're nine months pregnant. So basically just Bing "fish out of water" and THIS SHOW will come up. (No really, there was an ad for Bing where that exact thing happened.)

Zoe's an absolute monster at first: Someone gives her food and she literally throws it in the garbage; she asks her assistant to drive eleven miles to get her some Starbucks; she tells Scott Porter that he must be an axe murderer for offering her a ride. Scott Porter! But then, you know, after a fight with her high-society mom (for shame, JoBeth Williams!), Zoe comes to realize that she can get used to small-town life and its charming ways. Though I'm sure that such a decision is easier to make when someone hands you an entire medical practice as well as free housing.

Many of the elements listed above aren't necessarily dealbreakers. We've all seen perfectly hilarious movies with similar premises, but something about Hart of Dixie reeks of "You love trash, so you'll eat this up." Nothing about it is genuine, especially not its many "emotional" moments. Nothing about it is plausible—especially not its premise, characters, or twists. Bad writing (Zoe almost gives up for no real reason), bad jokes (an alligator named Burt Reynolds), and a gross plot twist (the old man turns out to be Zoe's father!) really made Hart of Dixie's debut a punishing viewing experience.

To be fair, people will watch this. Lots of grown adults who should know better were raving about this thing on Twitter last night. That's fine, we all have guilty pleasures. But the most depressing part about Hart of Dixie is that it involves so many people who could be off making GOOD television: Rachel Bilson, Scott Porter, and executive producer Josh Schwartz have all done much better in the past and will do better in the (hopefully) near future.

Hart of Dixie is a ridiculous, cynical show that wants you to think it's compelling and heartfelt. Don't be tricked, y'all!

 

What did you think of Hart of Dixie?
... Were you won over by its charms?
... Were you put to sleep by its woozy production values?
... Any Alabama residents in the house? How'd you like your state's portrayal?

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I'm not from the South or from the United States, but I do enjoy this show. I can't speak on behalf of anyone from Alabama about stereotypes, but most of prime time television is choc full of them. Schwartz's formula is pretty much the same for all of his shows. There is no realism but pure romantic idealism, whether it's in the OC, NY City or the fictional town of Blue Bell. I think Peterson is being a little harsh if he thinks it's worse than any of Schwartz's other shows. I enjoy watching Rachel Bilson, as I did on the OC. I think she's delightful and funny. It's only light entertainment that's not supposed to be taken seriously. Blue Bell seems like a charming place where I would love to live. From what I understand, Alabama is a very conservative state. I think Blue Bell and its residents give Alabama a more positive image than my pre-imagined one of fundamentalist Christians, hoards of KKK men and large numbers of poor African Americans. I hope someone from Alabama can set me straight on the life, culture and people of their state.
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Your view of what fundamentalist southern Christians are thanks to liberal politicians and producers painting us that way. Anyway a little research would show that the KKK was started by Democrats. They are also to blame for the Fugitive Slave Act which was passed after the Democratic Party brought back slavery after every state had outlawed slavery. The Republican Party was started by abolitionists who left the Democratic Party along with other parties like the Whigs in order to fight for the abolition of slavery. After the Union won the Civil War the Democratic Party gathered up enough power in the South to then pass Jim Crowe laws. Anyway, there's poor black people all over the country not just in the south, and the KKK is a dying breed. The only reason why the KKK would identify as Republican today is because they Democrats were more conservative than the GOP when they Dems formed the KKK, and the KKK still identifies as conservative. Anyway, conservative does not equal racist.
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Thanks for your reply. I am aware of the general political history of the Southern states of the United States of America. I am also aware of the disproportionate levels of poverty and social disadvantage amongst the general population of African Americans from every state. In short I'm aware of the differences between the stereotypes in the media and reality. Are you from Alabama?
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I don't understand how anyone can call this show offensive to the South I live in Tennessee and I have been to little towns that are just like this! Even so how does it pose any offense to anyone? It's a light hearted show, I have been waiting for a show I can literally watch over and over and I have watched this series 3 times now, If I have nothing to watch I put Hart of Dixie on. I will admit within the first few episodes I wasn't sold on it, I thought it was going to be a very boring show, & I'm sure others thought the same thing so they never went back to watch. Luckily I watched it all at once so I was very into it! I hope this show stays on air and I wish people would give it more of a chance,sometimes shows don't get good till the middle of the season!
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The mayor is the only one who sounded somewhat realistic. I actually checked imdb to see if he was just hamming it up a little.
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I think the show is cute. Most shows are stereotyped, and I believe this one is meant to be humorous rather than offensive. But would it kill some of these Hollywood folks to LISTEN TO REAL SOUTHERN ACCENTS before they mimic? I have NEVER heard a Southern accent that sounded like this is my life. Especially Jaime King's weak attempt...
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Their only experience with the entire southern part of the United States is Gone with the Wind. The south has since changed. You can't forget that that movie is set in the 1860s. Do you see youtube videos about the current north filmed in the south that feature everyone walking around in buckled hats?
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Price, for the first time since I started reading your posts...you disappoint me. I know this thread is old, but I only recently stumble upon Hart of Dixie...and was instantly hooked! I thought for sure, you, of all ppl would find the ridiculous awesomeness of this show! It's a little bit like House meets Sex and the City...meets Dukes of Hazzard...meets Stepford Wives...meets Project Runway...meets Gone with the Wind. All smooshed together into one teeny little time slot each week, featuring Summer from the OC! How can you NOT have fun with that?? The fact that you didn't photo recap the pilot at the very least...is a bit of a let down. (Side note...why the OC didn't off Marissa in season 1 and make Summer the star is beyond me...)



I've had so much fun with this show! From the sweaters and jackets worn by the majority of the town in the middle of a what's supposed to be a humid southern summer, to the knowledge that at any given moment a woman decked out in full Gone With The Wind gear could stroll nonchalantly past the camera...what's not to love?? And maybe the acting isn't fabulous, and maybe the characters and scenarios are ridiculous and unbelievable...but there's a certain unapologetic disregard for plausible reality here, that actually makes the show that much more charming, and the characters that much more endearing. Here's hoping for an equally entertaining season 2...because guilty pleasure or not, this one is definitely a keeper!
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I really like this show. Some of you take the stereotyping way to seriously.
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I like the show. Hope it gets better could it could use some work.
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Sorry Price! I was fooled. Big time. Maybe not by the mayor athlete, but all in all I was glued to the screen.



Ever since Driving Miss Daisie and Green Fried Tomatos I am a sucker for them southern stories. Although I just finished reading The Help, which I bought after watching the trailer for the upcoming movie, I am not qualified to distinguish true accent from fake ones, genuine traditions from clichs, for I am a foreigner and live abroad.



I was full of anticipation for the tv.com review because I use them as gauges and guides to steer my interest for new shows and edit my personal pick-ups. If it weren't for your reviews I might end up wishing to watch everything and then complaining about cancellations.



So I am deeply disappointed at myself for my lack of discern but as soon as I see that sweet and yet edgy face of Rachel Bilson, I take my critical glasses off and watch, gleefully and blessed. I mean, I watched all the o.c. and it was no fun, I tell ya.



So, thanks. I will watch on, well educated by your review and trying to read all those clichs... but for the time when she is on.



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J.STREET CAN WALK AGAIN!! Lol. Even the mayor is Friday Nights alum. All jokes aside this shows far from perfect but has got more promise then a few of the other pilot shows, just please try stay away from the typical medical drama cliches. The characters are pretty decent so might just stick around for a few more episodes as a guilty pleasure. p.s did that girl really not know she was pregnant till she gave birth? wassup with that?!!?
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This show was pretty cool...i miss rachel bilson! :D hehe ill keep watching it....seems interesting :) and some funny bits in there, love it :)
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I'm actually going to defend this (a little).

1st. "despite her inability to convincingly pronounce medical terminology" I'm not sure what you're basing this on as she had hardly any medical terminology to say, and what she did say she got right. I think you're a little blinkered by the fact that Bilson doesn't look like a surgeon, which, frankly, is a little shallow minded of you.



2nd. This was a lot better, yes a LOT better, than the almost unwatchable Ringer. Already this pilot has given us some (more or less) likeable characters, a bit strained but reasonable opening premise (for a pilot, compare it Ringer, Terra Nova, The Secret Circle all just as contrived) and a good idea of what this show wants to do and where it wants to go. Ringer achieved none of those things, it was a complete shambles.



I agree that some of the accents were poor (particularly Jaime King, who was a bit disappointing overall), but given time I'm sure that will improve. Just remembering for a moment that the point of this, and all pilots, is to give you an idea of what you are committing your time to, it has to be said that it's done what it set out to do. Like it or not, you know what you're getting.



Will I watch it long term? Well, that depends on Bilson and the development of the characters around her. I doubt it to be honest as it probably will get cancelled, but i'm much more willing to give this a chance than some of the other cr*p that's out there.
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Its funny that you mention Jaime King's accent out of everyone when, I think, shes southern. I dont know about all the guys in the show, but Im going to assume they are not southern, but as far as I know, she is. She always plays a southern character and I think when I saw her on 'Cribs' (many years ago) she had a slight accent. She was also on s2 of The OC where she had an accent, which is probably why Josh Schwartz picked her as the southern belle.
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Someone who isnt me, felt this wasn't so bad, it was actually, a little bit funny, however, the plot is laughable, even tho her boss in NY, says she has the best hands he saw in over 30 years of practice, he won't give her a fellowship, causing her to lose her job, all because, he thinks being a good surgeon, is reading book and knowing patient names, instead of well... being a good surgeon.



Anyway, the show is filled with clichs, however, but, kinda funny, maybe because I like Rachel Bilsen and Scott Porter, overall, I'ts not a piece of art, but definitely watchable, specially when you don't have anything better to do.



I'm gonna see how this show evolves in the next few episodes.
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Ill watch one or two more eps to see where it goes, at least out of nostalgia for "Jason Street" :P

But if shows like Gossip Girl or 90210 are still on the air, why would they cancel this show? imo its on par...
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I like Gossip Girland 90210 is occasionally...okay at best, but this...is the pinnacle of ridiculousness.
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If it weren't for "Six" I'd probably skip this one over. Glad to know there's a FNL fan who thinks the same.
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Im not from the south so yes it must be annoying to be continuly be stereotyped but I gotta say most places on tv shows are stereotyped, namely New York and Los Angeles. I live in Arizona and even we get stereotyped as people who live in big ranches in the middle of nowhere..basically like a scene out of one of those western movies instead of an actual metropolis with busy cities, palm trees and other things not really movie-stereotypes of Arizona.
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I agree, stereotypes on TV shows aren't really the problem, but they should at least be interesting.
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calling an alligator Burt Reynolds is pretty funny. But I wouldn't watch because Rachel Bilson can't act and is too smug to be likeable.



But the comment below about everyone in Brazil loving the show made me laugh out loud. Priceless.
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a bit cartoonish but I am assuming it will get less so... and it does promise a lot of drama esp. with the mayor and blondie quite obviously ready to jump each other at her engagement party.... so i'll stick around just for that...
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Didn't watch it as it looks terrible, mostly because of Rachel Bilson and I don't think it's my kinda show. Just wanna comment on how the South is portrayed. Not having ever been there I can't really judge but I feel Justified has a pretty good pulse on it. Except for all the criminal stuff of course lol.
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I haven't seen Justified so I can't comment on it, but I can say yes, definitely, there is no "criminal stuff" in the South. :)
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Lol well obviously there is 'criminal stuff' everywhere. Just meant that not everyone in the south is gun running/dope dealing/moonshining hillbillies. That's all.
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Justified is actually pretty accurate, even with the crime of many rural places in Alabama. My farm neighbors get murdered all the time. An article on a recent meth lab bust down the road from us: http://www.myfoxal.com/story/15610749/meth-lab-busted-in-vandiver



Hart of Dixie isn't very accurate, but as an Alabamian, I actually find it pretty funny if you realize it's supposed to take stereotypes to hyperbole. The poor redneck folk rarely interact with the society folk in reality... AL has a lot of economic segregation, which is common all throughout the US
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I sort of liked it. I will see where this goes from here. I saw the whole Burt Reynolds being an alligator thing from a mile away, better luck next time with that one.
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Anyone know where I could see the first episode? I missed it. Can't watch it on the CW as I live in Canada. What about Canadian websites?
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I actually liked it. I didn't expect much and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, it has some flaws but I enjoyed watching it so I will tune in next week.
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I didn't find it as horrible as I thought I would, so perhaps I'll watch it next week until it becomes irritating enough to stop. The only thing I really liked - by the way, old guy being the real father? I am so sarcastically shocked... - was the implication of the black mayor with the true-bred southern belle. But that would be about it. It really is a guilty pleasure, because it would be unwatchable if you looked at it seriously. Which I'll chose not to do.
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The chapter I liked, not a great series but the movie reminds me of Michael J Fox Doc Hollywood. Right now I'm going watching insured
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Hart of Dixie makes Revenge look like it deserves Emmy nominations, and in it's current state Revenge is mediocre at best - kind of like owning the Spice Girls CD, it's an indulgence I'll allow myself when I curl up on the couch in my pajamas and hide out in the darkness of my living room. It's not something I'll be inviting friends over to watch or share in a blog. Rachel Bilson, unfortunately, comes across every bit as pretentious and flat as her character. All I can think of is the scene in Clockwork Orange where the main character is forced to watch clip after clip. The mere thought that of being forced to watch Hart of Dixie this way is enough for me to feel pieces of my soul dying. There's more drama in my last sentence than there is on this entire show.
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IDK what the problem is? I Liked it... didn't think I would, but I did! Than again, It's Josh Schwartz! :)
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You sound almost guilty :) It's OK, you can like it and be proud! (even though it really sucked)
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I know this sounds bad.... but one should only use this how for masturbation purposes. Sorry Rachel Bilson?
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oh come on, every single tv show gets a bad review on here unless they figure too many people watch it so they give a good one even though the tv show is not worth it, I mean look at The vampire diaries, most cliche show there is one can practically see the cliffhanger coming. If that wasn't enough it's also extremely draggy and a copycat of every single other vampire show out there, so based on that you cannot judge on whether a show is good or not or whether you should watch or nor based on these reviews
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Of course all the reviews on TV.com are biased. It simply depends on who writes the review, since everyone has their own taste in TV shows. Just don't let them influence you too much, just keep watching what you like and don't take the reviews & reviewers too seriously ;)
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Alternatively, they just have high standards. It is extremely hard to write television well, and very few series recently seem to have done that. However, every series does NOT get a bad review on here--look up The Good Wife, Friday Night Lights, Fringe, and several other actually quailty shows, and you'll see it's not all thumbs down.
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Quite a review. I couldn't get past the the singularly bad casting of the lead role to take note of any other flaws. Instead of an educated, sophisticated 30-year-old woman, we get a little cutie who looks and sounds like she should be playing a classmate on Buffy.
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i didnt watch this show , but can someone tell me if there is a double rainbow all the way in this series .. look girlish .. not gonna watch it .. i hope it cancelled
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afer reading a bad review somewhere about it. i forget where? here maybe? tv guide?



i wasn't expecting much, but i did like it. i hope it does last. now the only thing that makes me mad is them putting 'HOUSE" on at the same time! grrrrrrrrrrr!
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Greetings from the UK, I loved the show, i hope it hangs around for a while.
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You loved the cartoonish nature of what you know as American southern culture. But you liked it and that's what counts, to the CW at least. Cheers
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Fantastic Show, Everbody in Brazil loved !!!
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Well you can hardly blame Hart of Dixie for mis-representing the south. If the did it right, some of their characters would have to represent that group of people who thinks its OK to be racist, uneducated idiots, and think uninsured people should die and gays are demons in human skin.
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There are people like that everywhere. You are one of them.
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How am I one of them?
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Well, I don't see that segment of the population represented in ANY TV show located in any area, and believe me, they exist everywhere. The South hasn't cornered that market; people just tend to use it to justify their own prejudices against an area of the country that has plenty of non-racist, educated smart people who have compassion for all people and who don't make judgements about people based on race, sexual orientation, or any other meaningless criteria.
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uncool
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I can't believe that in this day and age there are people in this country that actually believe the load of crap written above by bonezrulz05. Ever been to the South? No? Didn't think so.

Also, I moved to the TN from California and I felt offended for my friends born and raised her by Hart of Dixie's portrayal of southern life.
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Yeah well, when people from New York start voting idiots like Louie Gohmert, Virgina Foxx & Rick Perry into office, we can talk. Until then, the South is either gonna have to do deal with their reputation or change their voting habits.
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Victimization is a life long pursuit for scumbags like this one. Must be really frustrating to know unemployment only lasts for 99 weeks when you just hit week 98 lol
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Your argument would make sense if I lived in the United States and was actually unemployed. As it stands, neither of those things is the case so better luck next time.
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I'm born, raised, and still reside in Alabama.. and yeah, there were parts of this I found kind of offensive, which isn't anything new because as you mentioned, anything about the south is stereotyped. I watched it just for Rachel Bilson, and she'll be why I keep watching.. but it's definitely not a good show
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Well, I'm not that critical with the fake accents or the portrayal of life in the Southern States. But you could say that most TV productions exaggerate characters, storylines and cities like New York, L.A. or Miami.

I wasn't expecting a real life picture and couldn't be disappointed concerning Alabama as I never lived there and do not know anybody who was born there. I had a feeling that the characters were slightly clichd but I was entertained nonetheless. I'll keep watching and sipping wine while I enjoy the upcoming episodes. I have seen much worse I must say. And I thought the alligator named Burt Reynolds was a cutsie! :D
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I thought it was really cute. Yes, her voice overs were not convincing. It's cliche and kinda silly but cute. I'll be tuning in.
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You forgot to mention the bad acting. Maybe Rachel Bilson could be better in something else, but she was godawful in this; blame it on the writing maybe, but even her voice overs were just bad. And could we maybe find something a little less cliched than Southern belle of a good (white) family secretly in love with the black ex football player mayor who's marrying the man mamma and daddy expect her to because it's what's expected of her? Come on! Believe me, the South outside my Mississippi window is a MUCH more interesting place than this drivel. Well, maybe not Tru Blood interesting, but still...
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Well, I saw this because nothing else was on tv. This cliched liberal fly-over country stuff is so far past old, I just gave up.



You know what show does work well. When the characters are from flyover country, beyond redneck, with trucker caps and a 12 gauge shotgun aimed at your face.



Something like "Supernatural". People tend to watch that show because it doesn't polish the knob of the coastal concrete cesspools.



They speak English, don't own slaves, and protect your little cities from being turned into ash. That's a show that works.



Anyhow, it's just another cliched tv show. Not a surprise. Moving on.
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her mom was played by JoBeth Williams? I didn't even reconize her. Yes I will say this show does have alot of good actors. Rachel Bison and JoBeth Williams and Nancy Travis.
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If you think Hart of Dixie is good television......you might be a redneck!
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lol good one
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it felt like a slow boring movie. at the end it got interesting I wish the guy that was her real dad didn't die. That would have made it more interesting. I will give a try next week see how it goes. If it sucks I'm through.
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I actually enjoyed the show and was looking forward to watching it again next week.
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Was born in Alabama and went to college in Alabama (Roll|Tide), and have lived in the South all my life. I really feared it would be a cartoon, from the ads, but wanted it to be good because I love Bilson so much. And I thought it was homage, and was pleasantly surprised.
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Just for the record, I'd totally let Rachel Bilson operate on me.
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pants on or off?
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