Fall TV First Impression: Hart Of Dixie Serves Up Rachel Bilson, Southern Comforts

The broadcast networks will debut more than 30 shows this fall, including Charlie’s new Angels, Spielberg’s dino-mite Terra Nova, and no less than two series set in the ’60s. To help you prep, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next up…

THE SHOW | The CW’s Hart of Dixie (Mondays at 9/8c, premiering Sept. 26)

THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, CBS’ Two and a Half Men/Mike & Molly, Fox’s House and NBC’s The Sing-Off

THE CAST | Rachel Bilson (The O.C.), Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights), Jaime King (Sin City), Cress Williams (Friday Night Lights) and Wilson Bethel (Generation Kill)

TVLine’s Fall TV Premieres Calendar: Save the 101 Dates!

THE SET-UP | Dr. Zoe Hart had it all figured out: After her graduation from med school (where she delivered the commencement speech, no less), she would toil at some fancy New York City hospital, then with lightning speed become a world-class cardiothoracic surgeon and join her father’s esteemed practice. Instead… the Chanel-clad cutie winds up in Blue Bell, Alabama aka “the last stop on the Gulf Coast,” effectively setting up a catfish-out-of-water tale. Porter plays good ol’ boy George Tucker, King his Steel Magnolia of a fiancée, and Bethel the resident scalawag. Williams is Lavon Hayes, a former NFL great who parlayed his “local kid makes good” fame into the job of mayor, while JoBeth Williams (Private Practice), Tim Matheson (Fletch) and Nancy Travis (The Bill Engvall Show) guest-star as Zoe’s mom, begrudging medical practice partner, and “Mrs. H.,” respectively.

More of TVLine’s First Impressions: NBC’s Up All Night and The Playboy Club, Fox’s Terra Novaand New Girl, ABC’s Pan AmOnce Upon a Time and Charlie’s Angels, The CW’s The Secret Circle and Ringer, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and Person of Interest

THE GOOD | Like The Secret Circle, though much more akin to early-era WB fare, Hart of Dixie is another fastball down the middle for the fifth network. Beautifully filmed with warm, cozy tones, the Southern setting utterly envelops the glowing Bilson. Yes, it’s hard to swallow the early frames that position Zoe as some Cristina Yang-like supersurgeon (the NYC boss who boots her claims she has “the best hands I’ve seen in 30 years”!), but soon enough Porter — in smiley FNL versus wily Good Wife mode — shows up to win us over and make you forget that clunky intro. Also of note among the cast: Williams, having played assorted degrees of unlikeable on Grey’s Anatomy, Prison Break and FNL, changes things up as a charming politician with a surprising “connection” to one of the townsfolk. While a bit generous with the rom-com clichés, the pilot is super-efficient at introducing us to those who will be the key players in Zoe’s story, laying the framework for storytelling places to go.

THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | Travis is full of warm welcome, sage advice and even a big reveal as Zoe’s receptionist(/nurse?), but will be written out a couple of episodes in (now that she is starring opposite Tim Allen on ABC’s Last Man Standing); that’s gonna be jarring. Save for an illuminating scene toward the end of the pilot, King’s character — privately prickly town sweetheart Lemon Breeland — is a little expected. Take a drink every time Zoe reacts to a display of down-home folksiness with a disbelieving, “Wow.”

Fall 2011 TV Grid: Where Did Your Favorite Shows Land?

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Given the competition — the always formidable DWTS, CBS’ sure-to-be-noisy Men and a possibly noisy season of House — this time slot is not what the doctor ordered for Bilson’s TV comeback. (In an ideal world, Hart of Dixie leads out of One Tree Hill, while fellow newbie Ringer gets paired with the similarly NYC-based Gossip Girl.) But hopefully The CW gives this charmer time to breathe, because it is, if anything, full of… you know… heart.

Watch a video preview for Hart of Dixie, then vote in our poll below.

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52 Comments
  1. Chmarin says:

    I’m gonna sound like Ariel Tweto from the 1st season of Wipeout: Where’s the poll? (not pole, but still. :D ) Can’t see it.

    I’m definitely watching Dixie, BTW. :)

  2. Martin says:

    I was kinda half hoping that Rachel Bilson would be serving up the actual drink Southern Comfort, now that would be a sight to behold, Nevertheless, will be checking the show out.

  3. Lu says:

    I know there are differences but isn’t this a new version of Northern Exposure? (I remember it from my childhood)

    • JC says:

      Yes, it does seem an awful lot like Northern Exposure. Or the movie Doc Hollywood. (Or the Pixar movie Cars for that matter.)

      I just foresee a lot of “you’re not from around here” jokes. I can picture Rachel walking through downtown Blue Bell in her Christian Louboutins looking for a sushi restaurant only to be told by a helpful local, “We don’t have one of those, but the Methodist church is having a catfish fry tonight, why don’t you try that!” And I’m sure she’ll fall in love with a local boy who is great a fixing things and never wears a shirt.

    • Mike says:

      A lot like Everwood minus the kids.

  4. Sam says:

    The CW has a pattern of holding on to quality shows even if the ratings suck. I can’t really think of a show that hasn’t had at least one full season since The Beautiful Life.

    • Tarc says:

      Considering the competition (dancing too cheesy to tolerate, the last gasp of a mong dead medical show, and a show that’s always been to awful to waste five minutes on), Hart sounds like a show worth giving a test hour or two.

    • lorna says:

      Are you kidding? Life Unexpected, Veronica Mars. THOSE were quality shows, NOT gossip girl or 90210.

      • lacey says:

        Life Unexpected had an annoying teen as their main character and after the second episode you no longer cared about her. Veronica Mars was a great show and I’m still sad that it was canceled but it didn’t have the ratings. I may be wrong, but I think Life Unexpected is the only CW show that wasn’t given a chance to finish up it’s season before it was canceled.

        • Tarc says:

          Lacey, you mean *you* thought the lead girl was annoying, and *you* no longer cared about her. You can’t speak for anyone but yourself. I persoanlly HATED Veronica Mars, and I simply can’t stand Kristen Bell in anything at all, but I’m not dismissing the reality that a lot of people loved that show (though I cannot for the life of me fathom why).

        • Tee says:

          Yeah, Life Unexpected had so much promise but fell so short. They never gave the main character much depth, and it quickly became just one overblown disaster after another between her and her parents. I finally just stopped watching it, I don’t know how they even wrapped it up.

          I was sad to see VM cancelled as well though it was getting progressively worse. That last season was so ugh.

    • Mandy says:

      Did you never see Veronica Mars, or on the other side of scale, One Tree Hill?!?! They lost quality and kept the suck. The CW is terrible at keeping their quality shows and all too quickly let them go. There is very little hope for this shows success.

  5. Danny says:

    I worry that since The Secret Circle and Ringer have almost 100% chances of getting full seasons, Hart of Dixie will be left in the dust. Hope I’m wrong though!

  6. Cloudy Knight says:

    Rachel Bilson is so adorable that I’d watch her read the phone book. Still, the writing must be up to par to keep me interested.

  7. Michelle says:

    They had me at Rachel Bilson. Love her! I just hope the CW gives the show a legit chance.

    • Fido says:

      They ‘had’ me too at Rachel Bilson. As to ‘keeping’ me, that’ll depend on the first few eps being much better than how that preview made the pilot out to be.

  8. David says:

    I’m really looking forward to this! I know it’s in a rough timeslot but I am more excited about this than House or Men actually!

  9. Matt says:

    I love Rachel Bilson and every season I’m puzzled why she isn’t back on my TV but something about this preview just doesn’t click with me.

  10. Gerald says:

    It looks okay but I hope it does well. That being said… why would you want it to be paired with the dying Gossip Girl? I’m surprised they still haven’t cancelled it.

  11. Shawn says:

    Is it true that Hard of Dixie will be filmed in “Stars Hollow”?
    How will they share the town with PLLs?

  12. Kiki says:

    I was actually surprised when I watched the video – it was better than I thought. Anyway, I’ll give it a chance for Scott Porter.

  13. Sivat says:

    I might check this out for the hot-as-hell Wilson Bethel. I loooooved him on Y&R. YUMMMM!!!!

  14. Carrie says:

    I like Scott Porter and Rachel Bilson, and this show does seem to have an old school WB feel, so I’ll definitely check it out. I hope people will tune in. This show isn’t getting the same attention as “Ringer” & “Secret Circle”. I’m not sure why The CW is waiting until Sept. 26, rather than giving the show a better chance by premiering it early. It’s going to have some stiff competition.

  15. Captain says:

    This doesn’t look bad but I don’t see it competing with Ringer and Secret Circle. The CW has a history of doing away with their less-buzzy shows (Hellcats, Privileged, Life Unexpected). Also, I don’t mean to be rude but there is no way I can buy Summer Roberts as a doctor. She still talks with the valley girl dialect and is essentially returning as a more educated form of her OC counterpart.

    • E says:

      The CW does favor certain shows, and leaves the others to fend for themselves. Their advertising department needs to try and help the lesser buzzed about shows get off the ground. I watched Privileged and Life Unexpected, both of which were really great shows, but I can’t remember either of them getting much exposure.

      Rachel Bilson does seem very pre-Seth Summer Roberts in the promo. But still, I’ll most likely give this show a try. I like the whole warm, Southern feel it has going for it. I hope it won’t lose that after the move to LA.

  16. ultimate troll says:

    Nice to read that it’s a well made piece of light drama but honestly I’ll have to see it to believe it. Bilson’s charisma is all I figure the show to have going for it but even I have cringed wondering how they’re going to play her as a doctor. I was hoping for an “enduring the stress of finishing her residency” type of doc and cringing at the idea that she would be…well, exactly what they’ve made her.

    I’ll watch, but I think they missed a real opportunity to make me giggle every week if they’d only named her character Dixie instead of Zoe.

  17. Plum says:

    Oh you Little Yellow Cardigan. You will be mine come fall. I don’t care if I have to put your behind on layaway. Yes, I talk to clothes.

  18. Pam says:

    It sounds like a cute show and would be an easy watch but I don’t need to add more shows to my DVR, ergo, this will not be watched by me. Unless, I am bored, stumble upon it while channel surfing and become enamored by it, which has happened before.

    However, it would be nice to see Cress Williams as a likable character.

  19. Shae says:

    I love Rachel Bilson, but damn! This looks terrible!

  20. Mel says:

    I predict I will become addicted to this and then it will be cancelled too soon or get really bad after two seasons.

  21. Mayra says:

    Can’t wait to watch Rachel Bilson again! She’s so awesome! The show itself doesn’t seem to be really good, but let’s give it a try. Plus, Scott’s also a very good actor.

  22. theschnauzers says:

    I’ll follow Scott Porter anywhere (FNL, Caprica, The Good Wife) and the set up seems different enough.

    And I’m more likely than not will be tuning in live as the other nets’ programming at the time are not appealing to me.

  23. Cody says:

    I love Rachel Bilson. And the show does seem somewhat promising, except for the horrible time slot. Only criticism would be the Southern cliches. Including the heavy, heavy accents, the abysmal name of the town, the girls dressed as Southern belles, and the gator. I have lived in Alabama my whole life and I’ve yet to see Southern belles, that’s more of a Georgia thing, and I have never seen an alligator while walking in the woods. I just wish people would actually visit Alabama or do a little bit of research instead of trying to stereotype the whole state. But since that is wishful thinking, I will try to give this show a chance. It’s not everyday Roll Tide gets represented, albeit cliched.

    • Lyndsey says:

      Leave it to the Bama fan!!! ;-P

      I cringe anytime I hear Hollywood is setting a movie or TV show in Alabama. I agree with you, they should at least bother to visit the state a few times before trying to represent it. I’m sick of our state being portrayed as uneducated hicks which is far from the truth (heck, we ARE the home of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, one of the premier theater companies in the country). Maybe this show will rise above the usual but I won’t get my hopes up! Oh, and War Eagle!!! :-D

      • Evan says:

        I’m with y’all. Bilson is cute, but not cute enough to make me overlook the constant low-level stream of hilariously inaccurate, weirdly bloodless, and unwittingly offensive Southern stereotypes that I’m sure will abound in this show. I have no faith in Hollywood’s portrayal of Alabama, nor any faith that this show will be an exception. I’ve got better TV possibilities to spend my time on.

    • Angie says:

      Awww, come on. It isn’t “a Georgia thing” either. I’m from SC and live in NC now. Personally, I’d love to see an honest representation in the mainstream media of what it’s like to live in a Southern state in 2011. You know, I don’t even know anyone who lives in Charleston who speaks with that kind of Southern accent they make South Carolinians have on TV, lol!

  24. brandy says:

    I’d like this better if it was just Summer moving from The OC to the little town. This seems like a modern day Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

  25. lacey says:

    As a Rachel Bilson fan I hope this show succeeds! It reminds me a lot of Everwood plus the previews looked good. I think it’s a much better show than 90210 or Tree Hill, but there are a lot of teens out there who love those shows.

  26. Tim Church says:

    Don’t forget about competition from WWE wrestling… And the fact Rachel can’t carry a show.

  27. Christa says:

    gotta say the first preview of this show i saw i was not 100% on board, but this one with the stuff about her dad and all and knowing why she had to go to that city makes me want to see it and give it my 3 episode rule! woo hoo !

  28. david says:

    i will be checking this show out. I hope it does good. It sounds like it could be interesting. If nothing else i am really not a fan of the shows on Monday nights at that time.

  29. Rain says:

    Doesn’t seem like too rough of a timeslot to me, seeing as how NONE of the other shows mentioned interest me at all! I’m excited there’s now something on Monday’s at 9 that I want to watch. Is it me or does this show sound more like Everwood than anything else it’s been compared to?

  30. Bear75 says:

    Stolen idea from Doc Holiday (Michael J Fox film) & Everwood. As such, I’m worried it might fall too much on the clichés but Rachel Bilson is sweetly watchable and if they play it right with her actually learning something & not being the ‘best surgeon they’ve ever seen’ & go heavy on the southern wiles without stereotyping too much, then it could charm like Doc Holiday, so will def give it a crack.

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