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Taxi is an Americanmarker sitcom that originally aired from 1978 to 1982, on ABC, and from 1982 to 1983, on NBC. The series, which won 18 Emmy Awards, including three for "Outstanding Comedy Series," focuses on the everyday lives of a handful of New York Citymarker taxi drivers and their abusive dispatcher. The series was produced by the John Charles Walters Company, in association with Paramount Television.

Taxi was inspired by the non-fiction article, "Night-Shifting for the Hip Fleet," by Mark Jacobson, which appeared in the September 22, 1975 issue of New York magazine. This article helped suggest the idea for the show to James L. Brooks and David Davis, though nothing from the article was used directly. The article was a profile of several drivers who worked the night shift for a New York cab company.

Premise and themes

The show focuses on the employees of the fictional Sunshine Cab Company, and its principal setting is the company's fleet garage in Lower Manhattan. Among Sunshine Cab's drivers only Alex Rieger, who is disillusioned with life, considers cab-driving his profession. The others view it as a temporary job that they can leave behind after they succeed in their real careers. Elaine Nardo is a receptionist at an art gallery. Tony Banta is a boxer with a losing record, and Bobby Wheeler is a struggling actor. John Burns, who was written out of the show after the first season, was working his way through college. The rest of the drivers take pity on 'Reverend Jim' Ignatowski, an aging hippie minister, who is burnt out from drugs, so they help him become a cabbie.

Some episodes involve one of the characters having an opportunity to realize his or her dream to move up in the world, only to see it yanked away. Others deal with the workers coping with their unsatisfying lives and their amoral dispatcher, Louie De Palma.

Despite the zany humor regularly featured on the show, Taxi often tackled such dramatic issues as drug addiction, single parenthood, blindness, bisexuality, teenage runaways, failed marriage, sexual harassment, pre-menstrual mood disorders, gambling addiction and the loss of a loved one.

Characters



  • Alex Rieger (Judd Hirsch) - Alex is the sensible, pragmatic, compassionate core of the show, the one everyone else turns to for advice. At one point, he reveals his frustration with this unwanted burden. He once worked in an office, with a good chance of advancement, but lost his job due to his refusal to follow the company line. He was married to Phyllis Bornstein (Louise Lasser), and when she divorced him because of his lack of ambition she sought sole custody of their baby daughter, Cathy. He gave in rather than fight. He is also estranged from his philandering father, Joe (Jack Gilford). Alex is a recovered compulsive gambler, although he relapses in one episode. A pessimist, he has resigned himself to driving a cab for the rest of his life.


  • Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito) - The head dispatcher for the Sunshine Cab Company, Louie spends the bulk of his time holding court inside the caged-in dispatch office at the garage and trading insults with the drivers. He not only has no morals to speak of, he positively revels in his misdeeds. Nothing is beneath him, from taking advantage of a drunken friend of his sometime-girlfriend Zena Sherman (played by DeVito's real-life wife Rhea Perlman) to gambling with a young boy to stealing from the company. He lives with his mother (DeVito's real mother, Julia, in two episodes). He has (on very rare occasions) helped his workers, as in the episode in which an arrogant hairstylist (played by Ted Danson) gives Elaine a garish makeover just before a very important event and further humiliates her by stating he "didn't know how to do taxi drivers". It is Louie who bolsters her confidence to confront him. TV Guide ranked De Palma first on its list of the 50 greatest TV characters of all time.


  • Elaine O'Connor Nardo (Marilu Henner) - Elaine is a divorced mother of two, struggling to cope while trying to realize her ambitions in the field of fine art. The object of lust of Louie, she is attracted to characters played by actors ranging from Tom Selleck to Wallace Shawn.


  • Anthony Mark "Tony" Banta (Tony Danza) - The sweet-natured, if somewhat dimwitted, boxer has little success in the sport. In fact, Louie makes a lot of money betting against him. Finally, the boxing commission takes away his license because he has been knocked out one too many times. Danza actually was a professional boxer.


  • Robert "Bobby" Wheeler (Jeff Conaway) (1978-1982) - Bobby is a shallow, conceited actor whose pretensions are Louie's favorite target. Success eludes Bobby. Once, he is signed up by a famous manager, but it turns out she does not want to represent him; she only wants him as a lover. Another time, he is cast in a pilot for a soap opera called Boise. The show goes into production, but his part is recast. Conaway left the show after Season 3, but continued to make guest appearances in Season 4 before being written out altogether.


  • Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd) (1979-1983) - A burned-out relic of the '60s, Jim lives in a world of his own. He was once a hard-working, serious student at Harvard Universitymarker, with an extremely wealthy father (Victor Buono), but one bite of a drug-laden brownie was enough to get him hooked and send him into a downward spiral. (His last name was originally Caldwell; he changed it to Ignatowski, thinking that the backward pronunciation of that name was "Star Child.") The cabbies help him pass a written exam to become one of them, in a particularly memorable episode. He occasionally exhibits unexpected talents, such as the ability to play the piano masterfully. TV Guide placed Ignatowski 32nd on its list of the 50 greatest TV characters of all time.


  • Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman) - Latka is an immigrant from a very strange land, often speaking in his invented foreign tongue ("ibi da", "nik nik"). He works as a mechanic, fixing the taxis. Latka was an adaptation of the "Foreign Man" character Kaufman originated in his stand-up comedy act. He eventually grew tired of the gag, so the writers gave Latka multiple personality disorder, allowing Kaufman to play other characters, the most frequent one being a repellent, smooth-talking lounge-lizard persona calling itself Vic Ferrari. In one episode however, he becomes Alex, with profound insights into "his" life. Just when he is about to reveal to the real Alex the perfect solution for all his problems, he reverts back to Latka.


  • Simka Dahblitz-Gravas (Carol Kane) (1980-1983) - She is from the same country as Latka. They belong to different ethnic groups which traditionally detest each other, but they fall in love and eventually get married. She is much more assertive than her husband, often standing up to Louie for him.


  • John Burns (Randall Carver) (1978-1979) - The naive young man who works as a cabbie to pay for college. According to Carver, "...the characters of John Burns and Tony Banta were too similar...Some of the lines were almost interchangeable...," so he was dropped after the first season, without explanation.


  • Jeff Bennett (J. Alan Thomas) - Sunshine Cab's assistant dispatcher, he shares the "cage" with Louie but rarely speaks or interacts with the other characters. One exception is the Season 5 episode "Crime and Punishment", wherein Louie falsely accuses Jeff of stealing car parts from the company and selling them on the black market (a crime which Louie himself committed).


Awards and nominations

Taxi is one of television's most lauded shows. During its run, the sitcom was nominated for 31 Emmy Awards and won 18, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series. It was also nominated for 25 Golden Globes, with four wins (three for Best TV Series - Musical/Comedy). In 1979, it received the Humanitas Prize in the 30 minute category. It was also ranked 48th in TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

Awards

Emmy Awards:
  • Comedy Series (1979-1981)
  • Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Judd Hirsch (1981, 1983)
  • Guest Actress in a Comedy Series - Ruth Gordon (1979)
  • Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - Carol Kane (1982)
  • Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series - Carol Kane (1983)
  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Danny DeVito (1981)
  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Christopher Lloyd (1982, 1983)
  • Directing in a Comedy Series - James Burrows (1980, 1981)
  • Writing in a Comedy Series - Michael Leeson (1981)
  • Writing in a Comedy Series - Ken Estin (1982)
  • Film Editing for a Series - M. Pam Blumenthal (1979-81), Jack Michon (1981)


Golden Globe Awards:
  • Best Television Series-Comedy (1979-1981), tied in 1980 with Alice
  • Best TV Supporting Actor - Danny DeVito (1980), tied with Vic Tayback in Alice


Nominations

Emmy Awards:
  • Comedy Series (1982, 1983)
  • Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Judd Hirsch (1979, 1980, 1982)
  • Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - Eileen Brennan (1981)
  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Danny DeVito (1979, 1982, 1983)
  • Directing in a Comedy Series - James Burrows (1982)
  • Writing in a Comedy Series - Michael Leeson (1979)
  • Writing in a Comedy Series - Glen Charles and Les Charles (1980, 1981)
  • Writing in a Comedy Series - David Lloyd (1981)
  • Writing in a Comedy Series - Barry Kemp and Holly Holmberg Brooks (1982)
  • Writing in a Comedy Series - Ken Estin (1983)


Golden Globe Awards:
  • Television Series-Comedy (1982-1984)
  • Actor in a TV Series-Comedy - Judd Hirsch (1979-1983)
  • TV Supporting Actress - Marilu Henner (1979-1983)
  • TV Supporting Actress - Carol Kane (1983)
  • TV Supporting Actor - Tony Danza (1980)
  • TV Supporting Actor - Danny DeVito (1979, 1981, 1982)
  • TV Supporting Actor - Jeff Conaway (1979, 1980)
  • TV Supporting Actor - Andy Kaufman (1979, 1981)


Ratings

The show was acclaimed by critics and was a ratings success during its first two seasons, placing in the Top Ten in its first season behind the ABC powerhouse line-up of Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Three's Company, but numbers plummeted when it was moved from that secure time-slot into more competitive positions. The show was cancelled in 1982 by ABC. The show was then picked up for its fifth and final season by NBC, being paired at first on Thursday night with Cheers.

The show's seasonal ratings were as follows:



Production

The series was produced on Stage 23, at Paramount Television, in Los Angeles, California, from July 5, 1978, to February 18, 1983.

Opening sequence

The opening titles show a cab driving east across the Queensboro Bridgemarker. The footage originally was intended as a "bridge" between scenes and is only about fifteen seconds long; parts of it are subtly repeated a few times to fill the opening. Tony Danza drove the cab in the sequence; he was in New York to shoot a scene that would air in the first season finale. It ended up being the whole series' only scene filmed in New York.

The external establishing shot of the Sunshine Cab Company was of an actual taxi garage and gas station located on Charles and Hudson streets in New York's West Villagemarker. The building has since been demolished, the site now containing an apartment building and a Rite Aid.

Theme music

Bob James wrote the opening theme, "Angela", which was originally intended for a sequence in episode #3 ("Blind Date"). The producers liked this slower, more melancholy tune better than the up-tempo opening theme they had initially chosen ("Touchdown"). Both songs are on James's 1978 album, Touchdown.

In 1983, James released The Genie, an LP containing much of the incidental music he had written for Taxi during its run.

Episodes

Cast reunions

Danny DeVito hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live soon after Taxi was canceled after the fourth season. A filmed bit had him driving around New York looking morose until inspiration strikes and he blows up the ABC building. In addition, the Taxi cast members were given an opportunity for closure, which up to that point had been denied them due to the abrupt cancellation. The actors took their "final" bows during DeVito's opening monologue, only to have NBC pick up the show. HBO was also interested in renewing the series for a fifth season after ABC's cancellation.

Decades later, most of the cast returned to play their younger selves and briefly re-enact scenes for the Kaufman biopic, Man on the Moon. Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Jeff Conaway, Carol Kane, Randall Carver, J. Alan Thomas and Christopher Lloyd all reprised their roles. The only two living members of the Taxi cast who didn't reprise their roles were Danny DeVito, who produced and co-starred in the film as Kaufman's manager George Shapiro, and Tony Danza, who declined to participate.

In the 1984 Cheers episode, "Fairy Tales Can Come True," J. Alan Thomas briefly appears as a character named, "Jeff," although whether this is the same Jeff he portrayed on Taxi is not made clear.

Kaufman incident

Kaufman wanted his stage character Tony Clifton to appear on the show. "Clifton" was hired for a guest role, but after throwing a tantrum on stage, had to be escorted off of the Paramount studio lot by security guards. The incident was recreated in Man on the Moon.

DVD releases

Paramount Home Entertainment released the first three seasons of Taxi on DVD in Region 1 between 2004-2005. The Fourth Season was released on DVD in Region 1 on September 22, 2009, four years after the release of The Complete Third Season. Seasons 1 & 2 have also been released in Region 2. The fifth and final season will be released on December 22, 2009. [15447]

DVD Name Ep # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2
The Complete First Season 22 October 12, 2004 April 28, 2008
The Complete Second Season 24 February 1, 2005 February 9, 2009
The Complete Third Season 20 September 13, 2005 TBA
The Fourth Season 24 September 22, 2009 TBA
The (Fifth &) Final Season 24 December 22, 2009 TBA


Footnotes

  1. Jeff Sorensen, The Taxi Book, St. Martin's Press, 1987, p. 3.
  2. Jeff Sorensen, The Taxi Book, St. Martin's Press, 1987, p. 39.

References

  • Lovece, Frank, with Franco, Jules. Hailing Taxi: The Official Book of the Show. New York: Prentice Hall, 1988. Reissued as Taxi: The Official Fan's Guide. New York: Citadel, 1996. ISBN 0806518014. SBN-13: 978-0806518015.


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