Gilmore Girls and Hart of Dixie -- two TV shows about strong, quirky women and the small, quirky towns they live in.
Are these TV shows too similar or far too different compare?
TV Fanatics Leora W and Becca Newton discuss subtext, character development, romantic blunders, and more in their quest to find out which small-town dramedy was better.
Becca: It came down to one question. Which show told its story better? For me, the answer was Hart of Dixie.
It told the story of a New York City doctor who changed and then changed the people around her because she went to practice medicine in a small town better than Gilmore Girls did with its many overarching stories.
Leora: You say that Hart of Dixie was about a New York City doctor who changed because she went to practice medicine in a small town.
That would imply the show would focus, to some extent, on small-town medicine like Virgin River, Everwood, or Doc Hollywood.
Hart of Dixie Season 1 did focus on Dr. Zoe Hart performing small town medicine. However, by Hart of Dixie Season 2, the medical plotlines were minimal. By the end of the series, it was easy to forget Zoe was even a doctor.
Becca: I didn't mind the medical stories becoming less prominent as the show progressed. I knew Zoe was a doctor even if she wasn't seen on the job a lot.
For many procedural shows, the case of the week is meant to act as a counterpoint to whatever problem the main character is facing at the time. Then the main character applies the lessons the case taught them to their problem.
Hart of Dixie found alternative ways to do that without needing a medical case of the week on every episode.
Leora: As much as the small town of Bluebell and the friends Zoe made changed her, as the seasons wore on, it became more about her love-life than anything else. Which is fine, but it wasn't the premise.
Zoe didn't move to Bluebell to find love. She moved because she had no bedside manner and because she found out Harley Wilkes was her father. The Wilkes were barely addressed until Hart of Dixie Season 3.
Instead of focusing on Zoe's newfound family, Zoe's cousin, Vivian, was used to show Wade's growth and spice the Zade relationship love triangle dynamic.
I like a good romantic comedy as much as the next girl, but the show had potential in the beginning for real depth, and it just didn't follow through.
Becca: Why do you think Gilmore Girls is the better show?
Leora: I think it's because while I enjoyed watching Hart of Dixie, I found myself often thinking how much better it would be if they did this thing or that thing differently. Gilmore Girls never pretended to be anything other than what it was.
And yes, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life does make me look at it in a different light, but I think the general theme of mother-daughter relationships, the complications of family, and the have versus the have-nots was as clear in the end as it was on Gilmore Girls Season 1 Episode 1.
Gilmore Girls explored all kinds of relationships, dynamics, and situations. It had a great love story, but it centered on the Gilmores and their lives. And we saw all aspects of their lives, not just their love lives. Rory's schooling and Lorelai's career were instrumental to the show.
Becca: Forgetting about Zoe's mission to explore the Wilkes side of the family was a misstep. When it was addressed on Hart of Dixie Season 3, it didn't act as much as a course correction as it should have.
I'm afraid I have to disagree with Hart of Dixie not exploring relationships besides romantic ones. Wade and Lemon's friendship was one of the best-depicted relationships on Hart of Dixie.
There were storylines dedicated to Zoe and AB's friendship. George and Lavon had plots related to town affairs.
Leora: I agree about Lemon and Wade. They were iconic, the best friendship on the show.
Zoe and AB and Zoe and Lavon were also good. But most of Zoe's relationships were secondary to her romantic relationships. Her plots focused more on the wacky hijinks or drama of whomever she was dating or in love with.
Lemon and Wade were, arguably, better characters than Zoe, despite her being the lead,
Lemon had the best development of the show. I will say I was disappointed Lemon and Zoe never got a Paris and Rory friendship dynamic. I was expecting it once it became clear Lemon wasn't a bitch. They had the potential for that.
While there was more to Lemon and Wade than Zoe, it wasn't as explored as much as it could have been. Wade's plots centered on his relationship with Zoe quite often.
Becca: Hart of Dixie's let its characters change significantly for the better. Characters on Gilmore Girls, for the most part, did not change very much over the show. If they did, it was for the worse (Rory) or not explained (Jess).
Leora: While I can't say I loved all of Rory's development throughout the show, I respected it and didn't have a real problem with it until the revival. Even in the revival, I've seen arguments that it made sense to her character.
Becca: Rory and her constant infidelities -- I never understood how a character who was so morally uptight to the point of freaking out about overdue library books was comfortable with cheating on almost every one of her boyfriends.
Leora: Rory had to grow up really quickly in a lot of ways.
Her mother was a single mother, a teenager with roughly no money, living in a potting shed at a hotel where she worked as a maid. No disrespect to Lorelai, who did the best she could, but it's established that she was relatively immature.
Rory had to be the adult when she was too young to be expected to be the adult because her mother never really grew up.
Rory was this mistake, and as much as Lorelai loved her, she knew that. She was the reason they didn't have any money. She barely knew her father.
She had to be perfect for everybody because she was trying to make up for the fact she wasn't supposed to exist, and everybody judged her mother for having her.
The older she got, the more Lorelai, her grandparents, everybody relied on her to be perfect -- to be the adult -- when she was just a kid.
She had all this pressure to live the life Lorelai never got to: go to college, be respectable and affluent, and be "the great, white hope of the Gilmore tomorrow." That's a lot to put on a child. The truth is, no matter how great she was. She would never live up to those expectations.
On some level, she knew that. She spent so long trying to make everyone else happy, and she bottled so much up, she never had a chance to explore what she wanted. When she finally let that run free, it got out of hand because she never learned how to be an irresponsible kid.
Her family did everything to ensure she never had to live with the consequences of her actions,
Also, the first time Rory cheated, it was right after her mother slept with her father, who was in a relationship with someone else. Lorelai was her role model and idol.
What you really get with Rory regarding her infidelity in the original series is that she would do these things without really thinking about it. When she stopped to realize what she was doing, she would be horrified at herself.
This contrasts with Rory in the revival, which was more okay with being the other woman and cheating on her boyfriend to boot.
Rory, not unlike Midge from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, is the sort of spoiled, naive person who thinks it's okay to do a bad thing as long as it was unintentional, which it always was in her case.
She didn't intend to kiss Jess. She didn't intend to sleep with Dean. She just got caught up in the moment.
Again she's never had to deal with consequences or blame because she's St. Rory, and nobody would hold her accountable. They don't believe she can do anything wrong.
Some people commented on this aspect of her behavior before the revival even came out. Expecting Rory to be perfect wasn't the problem for her portrayal.
Becca: I think you raise many points fans, myself included, come up with to explain why things happened the way they did instead of Gilmore Girls actually showing those were the reasons for Rory's behavior.
One of the things I think Gilmore Girls failed to explore enough was Rory's perspective of pre-series events. The show made Rory sound like she was completely okay with living in a shed growing up.
If Gilmore Girls had shown Rory realizing her childhood wasn't as rosy as she thought it was, it would better explain her Yale and revival behavior.
Impulsiveness is a thin excuse. Her first kiss with Jess -- fine. Sleeping with Dean the first time -- arguable. Sleeping with Dean the second time -- not so much.
Her kiss with Jess on Gilmore Girls Season 6 Episode 18 wasn't impulsive regardless of whether the kiss was done for the sake of closure between her and Jess, revenge against Logan, or both.
Gilmore Girls also sold Rory out for the sake of drama. Chilton Rory was a lot better about handling tough criticisms than Yale and beyond Rory. Maybe the mistake was making Rory too perfect at the beginning. She had no way to grow but down as the show continued.
Even though I can see the merits of arguments stating Hart of Dixie glamorizing infidelity, too, I think Hart of Dixie did a better job showing the pain it caused and in not letting characters get off consequence-free.
Leora: I guess I like the headcanons. Rory spiraling at Yale makes some sense when you think she was cut off from her mother more there. But yes, headcanons are important. Without them, I'd probably struggle more within. Let's agree Gilmore Girls was a bit of a mess.
That being said, so was Hart of Dixie. Hart of Dixie was a big mess with a bunch of little baby messes. It was a pretty mess, but it was a mess.
I strongly disagree Hart of Dixie handled infidelity better. In the case of Lavon and Lemon, maybe, but not in the case of Wade.
This is a huge point of contention for me, actually. Wade's cheating was swept under the rug in later seasons. We're meant to feel like he's the victim, the breakup was Zoe's fault, and she has to beg him to take her back because he's scared of getting hurt again. It was a huge issue.
When a main character does something most fans like to pretend isn't canon, it's a problem.
Becca: They swept it up during the later seasons, but they addressed it early. I'll concede I'm too forgiving of Wade, but I think Hart of Dixie showed he was sorry and experienced character growth that made him realize he shouldn't continue having affairs.
In comparison, Rory's blind spot about it got bigger and bigger to the point where she normalizes it.
Leora: I think they showed he was sorry, but I don't think they showed he changed. When he started the show, he was a womanizer. Meeting Zoe made him want to be better. He was doing better, but then he cheated on her.
As much as he blamed himself (because, of course, he did, that was totally in character), he didn't make an effort to explore why he screwed up and work to change it.
He got his career off the ground, but he continued to fool around with women, many involved, and one was married on Hart of Dixie Season 3.
He asks Zoe to forgive him and get back together months after he cheated. Then he's disappointed when she doesn't say I love you back and runs away from the hurt, which, frankly, who wouldn't?
After Tansy gives him a hard time about not getting serious with someone, he starts dating Vivian, who was (unfortunately) a two-dimensional character. Their relationship was meant to show he was growing because he was in a big-boy relationship and was good with her kid (sort of).
We never got to know Vivian or her and Wade as a couple because it was just meant to show he was an adult capable of committing.
I'm sure he is, but if he were capable of being that with Zoe, as they started to lead us to believe on Hart of Dixie Season 2, he never would have cheated in the first place!
And when Zoe didn't endorse him to Vivian, he got mad at her for not seeing he's changed, even though he was still acting very much as he had in the past. It was a lot of telling us he changed, instead of showing,
And Zoe has to say how the break up was also her fault, which just wasn't true.
The truth is, Wade has a lot of issues. He has abandonment issues and self-esteem issues that he needed to work out before being in a relationship, serious or not, with anybody. He addressed the symptoms but not the problem. We're supposed to believe he's cured?
Frankly, I think Wade would have benefited from seeing a therapist.
I agree that Gilmore Girls normalized cheating, particularly in the revival. Regarding the infidelity, I want to point out Rory didn't get a neat happily ever after or end up with any of the guys she cheated with/on.
The main couple of Gilmore Girls was Loralei and Luke, who never cheated on each other.
Hart of Dixie became more and more about Zade as the show went on, even after cheating.
Becca: Even though Luke and Lorelai didn't cheat, their relationship wasn't devoid of bad storytelling decisions either. They fell into the "couples keeping secrets from each other" trap. The April storyline was a bad call on several different levels.
Leora: Fair enough. They were a great slow burn, but seeing them on the revival at basically the same stage they were in nine years ago was frustrating.
I don't mind April. I actually liked her. But I didn't get why her existence meant they had to break up.
Becca: April grew on me, but I found her first appearances grating.
They overdid it with the nerdiness. I didn't like how she just grabbed Luke's hair for a DNA test on Gilmore Girls Season 6 Episode 9. It wasn't cute at all. Once they softened the quirks, she was fine.
Leora: Regarding background couples on Hart of Dixie versus Gilmore Girls, AB and George were out of left field. At the same time, I was always rooting for Lavon and Lemon to get back together. Lavon suddenly having feelings for her again wasn't built up so well on Hart of Dixie Season 3.
Even on Hart of Dixie Season 2, Lavon seemed to have moved on -- first with Ruby and then with AB. I wanted Lavon/Lemon, but, storytelling-wise, it didn't make sense for him to suddenly decide he was into Lemon again.
Becca: I didn't think Lavon's feeling for Lemon came out of nowhere on Hart of Dixie Season 3. I always thought Lavon had feelings for Lemon, even when he was dating other people.
As for the romances on Gilmore Girls involving supporting characters ...
Why did they give Paris an older man fetish?
Sookie and Jackson were mostly fine, but they had weird moments like Sookie ordering Jackson to have a vasectomy on Gilmore Girls Season 5 Episode 21.
Hart of Dixie gave the supporting characters' romances more screentime than Gilmore Girls did with its characters.
I know more about Tom and Wanda's relationship than I do about Kirk and Lulu's. Tom and Wanda were allowed to get married and have kids. Kirk and Lulu were frozen in time with the rest of the cast.
Leora: I agree about Kirk and Lulu. Why did everyone have to get them a pig so they wouldn't have kids? They could have kids. There's nothing wrong with that.
I'm more upset about Paris and Doyle breaking up than her and Asher. I think they wanted to do the student and professor storyline, but they didn't want to do it with Rory.
Plus, she always flirted with Richard, which I think comes from (A) that she always felt more mature than her classmates and preferred the company of adults, and (B) that she had major daddy issues.
Tom and Wanda were adorable -- yes.
I always hoped Lavon was carrying a torch for Lemon, but we didn't see any actual evidence on Hart of Dixie Season 3. He went for her arch-enemy and then her best friend on Hart of Dixie Season 2, and it never even occurred to him it would bother Lemon.
When Lavon found out it did, he did it anyway because he thought AB was worth it. When he and AB broke up, I hoped it was because of Lemon, but they didn't do anything to show us it was.
Really, if they were building up to that, we should have had more of them interacting, preferably with some charged scenes like Zoe and Wade, who were clearly endgame from Hart of Dixie Season 2 onwards.
Becca: Maybe it's streamer bias on my part, making events more connected than they actually were, but I thought subtext for Lavon harboring feelings for Lemon existed throughout the entire show.
During the duration of his relationship with AB, I always thought he was holding himself back. As much as I wanted AB and Lavon to work, I accepted it couldn't because it was clear he never loved her as much as she loved him.
I was more upset about Paris and Doyle breaking up too! I liked their relationship a lot. Again it came across as another instance of derailing character for the sake of drama.
I couldn't wait for Paris and Asher to end because I could never past the teacher-student relationship's grossness. Even at the college level, it's gross.
Like with Rory's affairs (now that I'm thinking about it, Paris and Asher started as an affair, too), I felt Gilmore Girls was normalizing it too much.
Leora: I don't think it is normalizing so much as people can be flawed, people are screwed up. But I do get what you're saying.
Gilmore Girls' creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, said in an interview when The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel came out that she doesn't believe people are good and actually believes they are bad and need to have good hammered into them or something to that effect.
Probably more crude, knowing her. I think she's a cynical person with a dark sense of humor, and the story she wanted to tell was not as light as it seemed at first glance. She wanted it to be true to life, and she doesn't think things work out.
Becca: One of the things I like about Hart of Dixie over Gilmore Girls is its more humanist perspective. Gilmore Girls sometimes goes overboard with the mockery.
Leora: I guess it is a difference in tone -- cynicism and a touch of realism versus the warm and fuzzies. It depends on what you're into.
I think we've established both of these shows are a mess. They were enjoyable when they aired. I enjoyed rewatching both, but both are also incredibly flawed.
The tones and point of each show are different. What you should watch depends on whether you're in the mood for -- a feel-good romantic dramedy or a satiric look at the human condition.
Both have corny small-town festivities and strong female characters. I will concede that maybe it's not so much better than the other, but both are different in their perks and imperfections.
Becca: Agreed. I have asked myself the question of which show is the better one many times. I reached different answers depending on the aspect of the show I'm evaluating.
Both shows are fun to watch, re-watch, and analyze. I'm glad we have both!
Over to you, TV Fanatics!
Gilmore Girls or Hart of Dixie -- which show do you love more?
Vote and hit the comments below.
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Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..