Zoe Hart is a fish out of water when she moves from NYC to Alabama

Rachel Bilson (Image: The CW)
Season 1, Episode 1 “Pilot”

The pilot episode of Hart of Dixie is doing a lot. They set up the premise of the show in the first 5 minutes, mostly through voiceover, (which thankfully is not something that is continued after the pilot) and then spend the rest of the episode introducing the main characters and the town of Bluebell. The premise is… pretty contrived but it gets us to the main point quickly which is good. As I said in my introductory post, the best part of this show is the character development and this first episode does a pretty good job of introducing all of the main characters and at least giving us a baseline for who they are at this point in time.

The main character is Zoe Hart, a doctor from New York City that has just finished her surgical residency. She had planned on staying and doing a cardio-thoracic fellowship but doesn’t get it because she is told she doesn’t have a very good bedside manner. This leads her to taking a job as a general practitioner in the small town of Bluebell, Alabama where a recently deceased doctor left her his practice, despite not knowing her. Though Zoe doesn’t question it too much it is fairly obvious that he is her dad, which is revealed at the end of the episode. We get some important insights into who her character is from this pilot and what her journey is going to be. Learning who her real father is makes her want to stay in Alabama and learn about him as well as becoming a better doctor. She is someone who has always had a plan for her career and future, when that falls apart, she is pretty lost. She wants to stay and do some good for the community, but Bluebell will end up changing her more than she changes it.

We are also introduced to the rest of the main cast, though we are given much less depth into who they are. These early episodes obviously focus on Zoe, but as the show goes on it will provide more depth for the rest of the cast as well.

  • George Tucker – a lawyer who also used to live in NYC. He loved it there, but missed Bluebell where he grew up. He believes he is his best self when he is there with Lemon, his fiancée. Zoe is immediately smitten with him and disappointed to find out he is engaged to Lemon. Rose calls George “the town golden boy”.
  • Lemon Breeland – fiancée of George, daughter of Brick. She is a member of the Belles who are a league of young women who work to preserve the history of the South. They are painted as being silly in their pastel antebellum dresses, but the show is careful to never really get into what it means to preserve Southern history. If the show was made today they probably wouldn’t have these girls. Lemon is pretty mean to Zoe, but in the way a proper Southern lady is mean. She is not happy to find her infiltrating her life – both by befriending George and working with her dad.
  • Lavon Hayes – former NFL linebacker, turned mayor of Bluebell. Zoe is stoked to find out that he is the mayor, and she is living in the old carriage house on his plantation. He is one of the first real friends she makes in town. He is very nice but a little full of himself. He talks in the third person a lot and says his full name (“Lavon Hayes likes your math”). Their friendship is a great dynamic on the show and is never romantic, which I appreciate. It is so rare on TV to have guys and girls be legitimate friends without a whisper of at least one of them having feelings for the other. Lavon will prove to be a great ally in town who helps her to fit in, but also isn’t afraid to tell her the truth.
  • Wade Kinsella – Zoe’s neighbor, who she shares electricity with. His presence is pretty minimal in this episode but we get a glimpse of his charm and the tension between him and Zoe. The absurdly small amount of electricity that they share between their two houses is going to be a set up for many angry encounters throughout the season.
  • Brick Breeland – the other doctor that Zoe has to share her practice with. He does not want her there and thinks that Harley should have left the rest of the practice to him. However, at the end when he and Zoe work together to deliver Mabel’s baby we see how they can be good a team. He is probably one of the most accurate portrayals of a someone with his background in Alabama. He is wealthy and educated but still is able to fit in by not seeing himself as above the people of the town. He is educated but he uses his brain to help the community which makes him a revered man in town, instead of an outlier. I don’t feel like that comes across in this episode but that is who he is shown to be later. I could see him being one of the dad’s of my high school friends.  

This pretty much makes up the main cast for the first season. We also meet some recurring characters, Rose as well as Zoe’s mom. Later episodes will introduce us to more of the townies and side characters that make Bluebell look like such a warm place to live. The pilot does so much to set up the premise and introduce us to the main cast that it doesn’t really do a great job of introducing Bluebell. The tone is also a little off which is common in pilots so I won’t dock it too much. I am very excited to start these reviews and watch all of these characters go through their personal journeys.

Episode Grade: B-

Does Bluebell Get It Right?:

  • Best Fake Alabama Accent: Brick Breeland
  • Worst Fake Alabama Accent: Lemon Breeland – though hers gets better as the show goes on. In the early episodes she is putting on like an old South accent.
  • From the first scene of Zoe riding the bus I can tell that they didn’t film this in Alabama. The exteriors were shot in North Carolina which is a pretty different landscape from coastal Alabama.
  • The rusting trucks on the side of the road that say “roll” “tide” are very accurate.
  • She takes the bus to Bluebell where she is dropped off on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere – 3 miles from town… this is not accurate. The bus would certainly take you into town.
  • The pastel antebellum dresses are unfortunately accurate. Though in Fairhope (my hometown, and the town Bluebell is based on), it is something that high school girls participate in. They are called trail maids and they are very much real.
  • Zoe is not excited for her fried catfish but she is really missing out – it’s amazing.
  • I’m pretty sure having a pet alligator is illegal.
  • Lemon: “Well bless your heart” accurate
  • Wade: “Look at you girl, drunk as a boiled owl” – no one talks like that
  • They mention a lot in this show that the closest hospital is in Mobile – but there is a hospital in Fairhope, and any small town in the area would have facilities to deliver a baby.

Other Thoughts:

  • Medical Case of the Week: a young girl is pregnant and afraid to tell her mother, but Zoe helps her and the girl finds the strength to tell her mother that she doesn’t want her in her life.
  • We are also introduced to the relationship between Zoe and the father that raised her, even though we never see him. She seeks his approval and he has been checked out of being her father since he found out he wasn’t.
  • Zoe: “Thank you but I have a strong policy against strangers chopping me up into a million pieces”
  • The pilot was shot somewhere different – a lot of the sets are changed after this episode. The town is moved to the WB lot and Wade’s house is different.
  • Lemon: “When I heard there was a new lady doctor in town, I painted myself quite a different picture, but you are just so pretty!”
  • The pilot also introduces us to the theme that Zoe has no idea how a doctor should dress.
  • Zoe knows who Lavon is because he is a football star, but I don’t think she is ever shown to really care about football in the future. Are we supposed to believe that he is famous enough even non-football fans would know who he is?
  • George/Zoe: “Have you ever heard of bedside manner?” “Why is everyone so obsessed with that?” “Because it’s nice!”

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