Sometimes, things just don’t turn out the way you planned them. That seems to be the main premise behind the theme of the television show Taxi and its cast members. I mean, does anybody want to grow up to become a cab driver in New York City?
Taxi was easily one of the funniest shows I watched back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. During its short five year run it won a total of 18 Emmy Awards, three of which for “Outstanding Comedy Series”. While that’s all well and good, Taxi also covered some issues that given the times, might have been considered taboo. Here’s a short listing of some of the more controversial ones.
Alex Rieger as portraved by Judd Hirsch.
Alex is the once successful businessman who finds himself out of job when he refused to toe the company line. He is also divorced and estranged from his child. In addition, he also a recovering compulsive gambler who’s lot in life seems to be sealed. He’s just knows that he’s going to be driving a cab for the rest of his days as evidenced by the following quote.
”I’m not really a cab driver. I’m just waiting for something better to come along. You know, like death.”
Bobby Wheeler as portrayed by Jeff Conaway.
Since the setting is New York City you almost have to have someone who is an aspiring actor but can’t seem to get a break. Bobby Wheeler is just that guy. He did manage to land a gig in a short lived soap opera called Boise and is the favorite target of head dispatcher Louie De Palma. Once, when Bobby threatened to leave the Sunshine Cab Company, here’s what Louie had to say.
"He’ll be back…..they all come back….the only one who never came back was James Caan…..and I’m still waitin’!
Louie De Palma as portrayed by Danny DeVito.
Whoever cast DeVito in this role is a genius. Despite his small stature Louie is the Prince of Darkness in the Sunshine Cab Company. He’s the head dispatcher and besides dispatching jobs he mainly delights in dispatching insults from inside his cage at the garage. Nobody is safe from his tongue or his wrath.
I know what love is cuz’ I watch talk shows, love is the end of happiness!”
”Ignatowski has a father? There goes my “spore theory!”
”Some men climb mountains, others date ‘em!”
On his mom, when asked about what kind of surgery she needed :
”Female problems, she’s starting not to look like one.”
”Reverend” Jim Ignatowski as portrayed by Christopher Lloyd.
This guy probably deserves a write up all by himself. One of the funniest characters ever to grace the small screen. Jim grew up with an affluent family and even attended Harvard University. All it took for that to change when he took a bite of a brownie laced with some kinda drug and it was all downhill from there. His last name was originally “Caldwell” but he had it legally changed to Ignatowski. The reason? He thought that was how “Star Child” was pronounced when said backwards. He’s easily the most quotable of all of the cast members and I think in one episode he dropped acid and claimed it was a Chicklet The ultimate stoner if there ever was one, no one else comes close.
”Hey Alex, You know the great thing about television? If something important happens, anywhere in the word, night or day, you can always change the channel.
While taking the written test to get his driver’s license ;
Reverend Jim: “Pssssssttt….what does a yellow light mean?”
Bobby Wheeler: “Slow down”.
Reverend Jim: “What….does….the….yellow…light…..mean?”
Bobby Wheeler: “Slow down”.
Reverend Jim: “Whaaaat……dooooeeees….theeeeeee…..yeeeel-loowwww….liiiight...... meeeeeaan?
”When I think of me, I smile.”
”If you find yourself in a confusing situation, simply laugh knowingly and walk away”
On the death of his father ;
Louie: “Jim, your father is no longer with us.”
Reverend Jim: “He never was. He lives in Boston.”
Louie:“No, I mean, he’s gone to his final resting place.”
Reverend Jim: “A condo in Palm Beach?"
I think that’s the episode where Jim’s dad bequeaths him an old cassette and when he flips it on, you hear the opening strains of Stevie Wonder singing “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” and the look that comes over his face will send a chill down your spine and bring a tear to your eye. It sure did to mine.
Tony Bantaas portrayed by Tony Danza
Not a huge stretch for the legendary actor but his talents lie in keeping it simple. Tony is a slow dimwitted wanna be boxer who Louie regularly bets against and almost always wins. He’s the good natured sweet one but eventually loses his license when he gets knocked out one too many times.
Louie: “What’re you listening to, Banta?”
Tony: “I can be here if I want to.”
Louie: “No, you can’t.”
Tony: “This is America, Louie.”
Louie: “No, it isn’t.”
Tony: "It isn’t?”
Louie: “No! This is Louieland. You want America, go outside!”
Latka Gravas as portrayed by Andy Kaufman.
Latka is the garage mechanic and is an immigrant from a strange, presumably Eastern European country and speaks in a high pitched voice and strange accent Eventually Kaufman grew tired of the same shtick so the writers gave him a multiple personality disorder. His most famous one was the over the top macho man and womanizer that went by the name of “Vic Ferrari”.
”Thank you very much”
Elaine Nardo as portrayed by Marilu Henner.
Elaine is the divorced single mother of two who yearns to make her way into the field of fine art. She’s also Louie’s love interest and he’s constantly trying to get into her pants. He never succeeds.
Louie:“Do you know what the difference is between people like you and people like me, Nardo?”
Elaine:“Yeah, two million years of evolution.”
Louie:“Would you like to wait in my office?”
Elaine: “I’d rather be the only woman on a Greek freighter!”
Sadly, Taxi went off the air after only five seasons. Nobody seems to know why ABC cancelled it after four but NBC picked the show up for it fifth and final season. Apparently it couldn’t gain any traction and lost its audience.
I’d like to close with a bit of dialogue between Elaine and Reverend Jim that I think sums it up pretty well.
Elaine: “Jim, you are truly a sweet and decent man.”
Reverend Jim:“Once there was a time when that was enough."
A lot of this came from memory but I also used: