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?

Like TV.com on Facebook