Thursday, October 10, 2013

Life In a Small-town Isn't Always So Simple

            I like to consider myself a country girl at heart. I own the boots, I have the accent, I listen to the music and I love the food. However, living in Philadelphia and going to school in New York sometimes suppresses my country outlook. So when the show “Hart of Dixie” premiered, I couldn’t help but fall in love with its southern charm. Then, when the second season came on Netflix this past week, I couldn’t help but fall in love for the southern belles of Bluebell, Alabama all over again.

“Hart of Dixie” is a comedy-drama series on The CW about a talented surgical resident, Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson), who was top of her class and aspiring to become an accomplished heart surgeon. However, after failing to be considered for the cardiothoracic fellowship in New York she is told that she must spend the next year as a general practitioner in order to get a recommendation for the fellowship. To make matters worse, her long-term boyfriend breaks up with her, leaving her in need of a dramatic life change. And that is the exact moment when she is offered a job in the small, southern town of Bluebell.

At first, Zoe tries her best to convince herself that moving from New York to Alabama is a logical decision. She tells herself that it will give her a change of scenery and it will allow her to be the head of a clinic, something she would have to work years anywhere else to achieve. However, when the city-slicker arrives in Bluebell, dressed in shorts too shorts for the gossiping elderly woman, speaking too fast for the ladies her age and trying to apply her complicated medical practices to the simple injuries of hunting, fishing and football, she begins to doubt herself.

In fact, by the second episode the entire town is already about to run her out of Bluebell. It isn’t until she realizes that the man who offered her the job in the first place, the same man who died weeks prior to her arrival, Dr. Harley Wilkes (Nicholas Pryor), is her biological father. If that’s not overwhelming enough, Dr. Harley had left Zoe half of his medical practice. After she comes to this life-altering realization, she decides to make peace with the townsfolk and stay in Bluebell. She befriends the Mayer, former NFL champ Lavon Hayes (Cress Willimans), and finds herself in an exciting love triangle with her flirty bad-boy neighbor Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel) and the well-educated, engaged, New York lawyer George Tucker (Scoot Porter).
I’m always curious about what makes certain shows my favorite and “Hart of Dixie” is no exception. Usually, if I love a television series it’s because I am very fond of the main characters. However, this does not stay true with “Hart of Dixie”. In fact, I absolutely loathe the main character, Zoe.  Of course, I find myself relating to her since she’s a young, loud, out-of place woman whose trying to balance her career with her oh-so awkward love life. But no matter the similarities I can’t help but yell at her through my television screen. She’s absolutely frustrating, to say the least. She has two guys pining after her, one of which is a hilarious, sarcastic, bartender who lives next door. The other is an accomplished lawyer who left his fiancé at the alter because he had fell in love with Zoe the second she came to town. However, Zoe’s reaction to having two amazing, worthy men fighting over her is naturally to tell them to date other people because she can’t decide who she wants to be with. But when they finally date other people she becomes absolutely furious. I know television series aren’t all about happy endings and riding off into the sunset but there is something to be said about a character that can never be pleased. For every episode where we see Zoe, the adorable, unpredictable doctor, we also get Zoe, the pessimistic, meddling woman. It is completely awful yet enthralling to watch.
I think that a large part of the problem is the team who produces and creates the show. Lelia Gerstein, the creator and executive producer of the show, had also worked on The O.C. for two years and then continued to work on Gossip Girl. Other producers and writers on this staff have also worked on Gossip Girl and other shows on The CW. These shows are known for constantly teasing the audience with limitless drama, predictable plot lines, and never-ending romantic issues. In Gossip Girl, we endured six seasons of each character dating, breaking up and getting back together with the same person. Hart of Dixie seems to follow this common romantic formula. In an interview with The Hollywood Report Gerstein comments on the similarities between the shows by saying, “Both shows are escape fantasy for women, so we have that in common..I think women who love Gossip Girl also love Rachel Bilson, I think there's a lot of crossover..”
What makes this show so unique to me and different from other romantic dramas is that the supporting characters are so strong and entertaining that they make up for what the main characters desperately lack. The supporting characters are all so quirky, awkward, and raw. For instance, Lemon’s friends, a group of young ladies who belong to a social group that resembles a well-mannered sorority, are extremely entertaining and truly represent the type of society that Blue Bell is all about.
The show is also well-known for its unique soundtrack. Shows such as Hart of Dixie and Nashville have made recent news for pushing the boundaries of musical arrangements by adding modern county artists to their soundtracks. Country is very rare to hear on television series since it has a reputation for being so separate from mainstream music. Some of the country music featured in this series includes artists Taylor Swift, Darius Rucker, Gloriana, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland and The Band Perry. However, the show also dives into non-country bands such as Langhorne Slim, Cobra Starship, The Lumineers, FM Radio and much more.
Hart of Dixie will most likely appeal to a female audience because of it’s romantic take on medicine. Unlike the shows House and E.R, this medical drama focuses less on the day-to-day medical emergencies and more on whom Zoe is going to date next. Moreover, romance on the show isn’t simple but controversial due to the complications of the growing love triangle. The first half of season two was so popular among viewers because Zoe and Wade’s relationship escalated so quickly. Blogger Kaitlin Thomas explains this by saying, “[Their relationship] was a stabilizing force, an interesting study in how two opposites can attract in an explosive way. Their relationship became not only the emotional center of the show, but ultimately its bedrock”. It’s easy to see how a relationship so emotionally invested as theirs could be so entertaining to female viewers. However, this show keeps from being a superficial romantic drama by incorporating the quirkiness of living in the South as well as the outlandish personalities of the supporting characters. Critic Mandy Treccia from TV Source Magazine describes this by saying, “We are all TV watchers here so we know that in the land of television, happy couples equal boring. But in a show like Hart of Dixie that doesn’t need to be the case because there are so many outside factors to give the couple something to do other than stare happily into each other’s eyes.”
What’s more is that this show isn’t based solely on drama or romance but has an unexpected aspect of comedy. The show follows the very basic formula of common situational drama found in television series such as Gilmore Girls. Examples of this include a situation where two supporting characters run against each other for mayor. The voting ends in a tie so naturally, the townsfolk decide to let their famous chicken decide who would be mayor. Bets, screaming, and complete chaos take place in hope that the chicken picks the right person. It’s situations like this that make everyday life in a small town seem so enjoyable.
All in all, the show has come a long way from where it originally started. Treccia comments, “When it was time for midseason reviews, “Hart of Dixie” was the clear choice for most improved and that holds true now that the season finale has come and gone. The show still has its flaws (looking at you, Zoe Hart), but overall, the second season has been so much fun to watch. Season 2 deserves an overall ‘A-’ for the year.” The show has, without a doubt, transformed due to its expanding comedic relief, growing supporting roles and playful banter between romance and spectacle. Even if you’re not into medical drama or southern charm, “Hart of Dixie” can still have you laughing with its fast-paced comedy or on edge with its engaging, frustrating drama.

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