May 5, 2013

Hart of Dixie: "I'm Moving On" Review

When Hart of Dixie premiered in 2011, there was some speculation that Rachel Bilson might have trouble carrying a show on her own. But now, with the second season near its end and a third officially picked up, it's clear that she didn't have to. This show, much like most of the shows on its network, boasts a cast of beautiful, young pseudo-stars. But unlike many CW shows, its cast is genuinely talented.

I joined this show (already in progress) when I caught some season 1 reruns in the summer of 2012. I've watched consistently since then, not because Bilson's performance as a big city doctor transplanted to a small Alabama town is anything extraordinary (in fact, that plot is a little tired), but because of the actors who bring Bluebell's residents to life. Some of these casting selections were not surprising; Both Wilson Bethel, who plays Wade, and Jaime King, who plays Lemon, had bit parts in episodes of The OC, Bilson's previous television collaboration with executive producer Josh Schwartz. But some pop up out of nowhere. I hadn't seen Tim Matheson since his commanding performance as The West Wing's disgraced Vice Commander in Chief. And, though I'd seen him before, I didn't even recognize Cress Williams. The role of handsome, constantly lovesick Mayor of Bluebell is a complete turnaround from his cameo as the conniving, murderous illusionist Baron Sunday on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Regardless of their diverse resumes, this cast comes together beautifully to fill the picturesque Southern town. The talented actors make the characters real and relatable. I'll be the first to admit, Hart of Dixie doesn't tackle the tough issues. Mostly, it's a show about the joys and perils of romance. And Bilson's Zoe Hart is particularly familiar with the perils part. It's not deep TV. But it's well acted, and actually it's quite a funny show. I think it works because it doesn't attempt to be too serious too often.

This week's episode, "I'm Moving On" is a great example of how the supporting characters can sustain their own story lines. Mayor Hayes's rivalry with the mayor of the neighboring town has been a subplot  before. But in this episode, when his girlfriend Annabeth, played by Kaitlyn Black, gets in cahoots with the enemy Mayor's wife, the story gets funnier than usual. This is thanks entirely to Black's expert comedic timing and the fact that she looks phenomenal in big hats. (Seriously, where does The CW find so many beautiful people?)  And speaking of beautiful people, Broadway superstar Laura Bell Bundy's performance as Shelby is so good that she makes the viewer forget the age difference between her and Matheson, who plays her fiancĂ©. And putting uptight Lemon and lackadaisical Wade into business together was a stroke of genius on the part of the Hart of Dixie writing team. Bethel and King have undeniable chemistry, making their forays into entrepreneurship hilarious to observe.

Meanwhile, "I'm Moving On" did just what a a season's penultimate episode should: it shook things up just enough to set up for an explosive season finale. Two episodes ago, Zoe suffered embarrassment after she once again declared her love for the unavailable 'Golden Boy' George Tucker. Incredulous, his response was, "I am sorry that you almost choked to death with a head full of regrets but, next time, take smaller bites." A brilliant line brilliantly delivered by Scott Porter. But it didn't close the door on Zoe and George; in fact, Zoe's confession of love closed the door on George and his girlfriend Tansy. And rightly so. Tansy would not be a believable character if she continued to be unbothered by the situation. Now, Zoe seems to be in the same spot she was in at the conclusion of season one: running to Wade just when George becomes available. You'd think this plot rehash would bother me. Here's why it doesn't: While other characters are growing, Zoe hasn't. But, she's being forced to face that. She's been told off by Wade, Tansy, and the random first date she was set up on. How fitting that a high school prom was the setting for so much drama! The title of the episode is purposeful irony. Zoe Hart most certainly is not moving on. "You're right!" she declares, "There is something terribly wrong with me!"

It's hard to tell what's going to happen in Tuesday night's season finale, but I'll be watching to find out. I bet we'll get both laughs and drama. Even if that doesn't make for great TV, it makes for entertaining TV. Sometimes that's all TV needs to be.

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