Taxi is an American sitcom series produced by the John Charles Walters Company. It first aired on ABC in 1978 and ran until it was cancelled in 1982. However, it was then shown on NBC for a further year.
Taxi focuses on the lives of a group of cab drivers working for the Sunshine Cab Company in New York. The inspiration behind the series was taken from an article published in New York magazine, featuring the real lives of cab drivers working the nightshift.
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A number of characters feature in the show, and these are cleverly combined to portray different lives and personalities. What makes Taxi appealing is that the cab drivers never see their jobs as a vocation in life, but as a means to pay their way to fulfil other career ambitions, so, for example, there is an out-of-work actor, a boxer hoping to make it big one day and a single mother holding down two jobs. Only one character, Alex Rieger (Judd Hirsch) has resigned himself to the fact that cab driving is his career, claiming he’s ‘the only cab driver in this garage’. Other characters in the show include a good-natured foreign mechanic, Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman), and the fearsome and abusive taxi controller, Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito).
What makes the show realistic is that the characters were struggling actors in reality, so they understood what it was like to be waiting for their big break in life. Many of the episodes focus on someone hoping to realise their ambitions, only for it to frustratingly lead to nothing.
Although Taxi has plenty of humour, it also tackles real-life situations, including racism, abuse, drug and gambling addiction, divorce and bereavement. Many of the episodes end on a positive note, but just as many have a mournful conclusion. It was the show’s clever ability to combine humour and realism that earned it a number of accolades. It won 18 Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series, four Golden Globes and the Humanitas Prize.
Although Taxi tackled unsatisfying careers, it became the making for actor Danny DeVito, who went on to become a filmmaker and star in famous movies, such as Terms of Endearment, Romancing The Stone, Ruthless People and Twins. He even married fellow Taxi actress Rhea Perlman who starred as Zena Sherman.
Many guest stars also feature in the show, including Tom Hanks, Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Marcia Wallace.
Popular episodes include ‘Latka the Playboy’ and ‘Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey’, which were ranked respectively as the 19th and 63rd ‘TV Guide’s Greatest 100 Episodes of All Time’. The episode ‘High School Reunion’, where viewers see a more humane side to Louie, is also a highlight.
After Taxi was cancelled, the creators of the show went on to produce another popular sitcom, Cheers.
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