Taxi (TV series)
show_name = Taxi
caption = Main title caption
runtime = 30 minutes
James L. Brooks Stan Daniels
Judd Hirsch Tony Danza Danny DeVito Marilu Henner Christopher Lloyd Andy Kaufman Jeff Conaway Carol Kane Randall Carver J. Alan Thomas
theme_music_composer = Bob James
opentheme = "Angela"
country = USA
network = ABC (1978-1982)
September 12, 1978
June 15, 1983
num_seasons = 5
num_episodes = 114
imdb_id = 0077089
"Taxi" is an American sitcom that originally aired from 1978 to 1982 on ABC, and from 1982 to 1983 on
NBC. The series, which won 18 Emmy Awardsincluding three for Outstanding Comedy Series, focuses on the everyday lives of a handful of New York Citytaxi drivers and their abusive dispatcher. The series was produced by the John Charles Walters Companyin association with Paramount Television.
"Taxi" was inspired by the
non-fictionarticle "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. Brooksand David Davis, though nothing from it was used directly. [Jeff Sorensen, "The Taxi Book", St. Martin's Press, 1987, p. 3.] 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 Sunshine Cab Company. Of all the taxi drivers, only Alex, who is disillusioned with life, considers it his profession. The others view driving as a temporary job until they can succeed in their outside careers and leave it behind. Elaine O'Connor 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, is working his way through college. The rest of the drivers take pity on "Reverend Jim" Ignatowski, an aging hippie minister burnt out from drugs, and help him become a cabbie. Some episodes involve one of the characters having an opportunity to realize his or her dream and 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 Louis 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 marriages, sexual harassment, pre-menstrual mood disorders, gambling addiction, and the loss of a loved one.
*Alex Rieger (
Judd Hirsch) - Alex is the sensible, 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). When his wife 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 dispatcher for the Sunshine Cab Company. 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 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). Under the amoral exterior beats a heart of pure lead. That said, 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. [cite news | title = Danny Devito: Biography | publisher = TV Guide| url = http://www.tvguide.com/celebrities/danny-devito/bio/146104 | accessdate =2008-10-03 ]
*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 Selleckto Wallace Shawn.
*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.
*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 operacalled "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.
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 University, 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 (see Quotes section below). 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 comedyact. 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 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..." [Jeff Sorensen, "The Taxi Book", St. Martin's Press, 1987, p. 39.] , 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 turns Jeff in for 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 Awardsand 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 Prizein the 30 minute category. It was also ranked 48th in TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
* Comedy Series (1979-1981)
* Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Judd Hirsch (1981, 1983)
* Guest Actress in a Comedy Series -
* 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 Taybackin "Alice"
* Comedy Series (1982, 1983)
* Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Judd Hirsch (1979, 1980, 1982)
* Lead Actress in a Comedy Series -
* 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)
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:
1978- 1979: #9
1979- 1980: #13
1980- 1981: #53 Fact|date=February 2007
1981- 1982: #53 Fact|date=February 2007
1982- 1983: #73 Fact|date=February 2007
The series was produced on Stage 23, at Paramount Television, in Los Angeles, California, from July 5, 1978, to February 18, 1983.
The opening titles show a cab driving east across the
Queensboro Bridge. 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 shot of the Sunshine Cab Company was of a garage in New York's West Village. The building has since been demolished, the site now containing an apartment building and a
Rite Aid.Fact|date=May 2008
Bob James wrote the theme music for "Taxi" throughout its entire run, including the main theme, "Angela", which was written for a sequence in episode 3 of the first season ("Blind Date", see below). The producers liked the slower, more melancholy tune better than the original, more up-tempo original opening theme chosen, which was the title cut of James's 1978 album, "Touchdown", on which "Angela" also appears.Fact|date=May 2008
:Elaine " [on first meeting Alex] ": I'm only going to be working here part-time. I'm not really a taxi driver.:Alex: Oh yeah, I know. We're all part-time here. You see that guy over there? Now he's an actor. The guy on the phone, he's a prize fighter. This lady over here, she's a beautician. The man behind her, he's a writer. Me? I'm a cab driver. I'm the only cab driver in this place.
:Jim " [taking a written driving test] ": Pssst. What does a yellow light mean?:Bobby: Slow down.:Jim: Okay. What...does...a...yellow...light...mean?:Bobby: Slow down!:Jim " [increasingly befuddled] ": Okay. Whaaat...doooeees...aaa...yeeel-looow...liiight...meeeaaan?
James Burrowsinstructed Conaway and Lloyd to continue repeating their lines until he called "cut". The gag wound up being performed at least a half-dozen times in the studio until the audience laughter finally died down. Henner (who was also in the scene) can be seen stabbing herself in the hand with a pen in order to avoid laughing.
[Taxi 1st Season DVDs - rear outside covers]
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 who did not were Danny DeVito, who produced and co-starred in the film as Kaufman's manager George Shapiro, and Tony Danza, who declined to participate.Fact|date=May 2008
Kaufman wanted his stage character
Tony Cliftonto 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. Fact|date=May 2008 The incident was recreated in "Man on the Moon".
CBS Home Entertainmenthas released the first three seasons of "Taxi" on DVD in Region 1. It is unknown if the remaining 2 seasons will be also be released.
*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-10: 0806518014. SBN-13: 978-0806518015.
* [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/T/htmlT/taxi/taxi.htm Encyclopedia of Television]
* [http://jimsmarios.tripod.com/ Jim's Mario's - The Taxi Fansite]
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