TV Review: Rachel Bilson Takes Trip to ‘Hart of Dixie’

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CHICAGO – There is a certain undefinable screen presence that makes some actresses look more comfortable on TV than others. Sarah Michelle Gellar has it. Juliana Margulies has it. Edie Falco definitely has it. Another actress who just seems at home on the small screen is Rachel Bilson, the former star of “The O.C.” who carries the new CW show “Hart of Dixie” to the back-handed praise of “moderately entertaining” but even she can’t save some cliched writing and the generic set-up. She does a reasonably good job making the premiere worth a look, but one-woman shows can only last so long before the supporting cast and the other issues with the program become more problematic. Television Rating: 3.0/5.0
Television Rating: 3.0/5.0

The lovely Bilson plays Zoe Hart, a smart young lady who graduated at the top of her medical school class and was ready for a sure-to-come fellowship that unexpectedly fell through. Lost and completely unsure of herself, Hart responds to the helping hand of a kind stranger (Nicholas Pryor) who had somewhat-randomly offered her a job in Bluebell, Alabama working at a small family practice. Why she’s offered the job is a mystery soon answered after this city girl decides to head to the country.

Hart of Dixie
Hart of Dixie
Photo credit: The CW

When she gets to Bluebell, Zoe meets the handsome George Tucker (Scott Porter) and it looks like she may just not have a good job but love in this hick town. She arrives at her new office to discover that not only has the kindly gentleman who offered her a job passed away but he’s left her the practice for reasons no one quite understands. Zoe has to run the place and work with the abrasive Dr. Brick Breeland (Tim Matheson), who has a daughter named Lemon (Jaime King), who, you guessed it, happens to be engaged to George. Drama!!!

Hart of Dixie
Hart of Dixie
Photo credit: The CW

The ridiculously charming fish out of water draws the attention of the Mayor of Bluebell, Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), who kind of takes her under his wing and gets her into the important parties and talking to the right people. Local flavor is provided by gator-owner Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel), who may or may not be another potential love interest.

Will Zoe stay in Bluebell? How will she fit in with debutante balls and Southern flavor? Can she leave her big city ways behind? And maybe even find love and save a few lives while she’s there?

As charismatic as Bilson may be in the relationship scenes, she’s not yet believable as a doctor, city or country. I’m not sure if she ever will be or if this is the kind of thing viewers will get used to but Bilson just doesn’t seem like the kind of person anyone would turn to for medical advice, even in the heart of Dixie.

So, what about those relationship scenes? As fun as it is to watch Bilson back on TV flirting with new counterparts, the dialogue and storytelling here is remarkably generic. We’ve seen it before and without memorable dialogue that’s going to matter soon. The premiere may be like revisiting an old friend that you haven’t seen in awhile but that wears off. Will we want to stay in “Hart of Dixie” when it does?

“Hart of Dixie” stars Rachel Bilson, Scott Porter, Jaime King, Tim Matheson, Cress Williams, and Wilson Bethel. It premieres on The CW on Monday, September 26th, 2011 at 8pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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