Set in New York City, TAXI follows a group of cab drivers of the Sunshine Cab Company through the daily but far from ordinary routine as cabbies. The sitcom features a multitude of extroverted persons such as a frustrated actor, strained boxer, ex-hippie and cynical dispatcher.
From the melancholy opening notes of the theme song, Taxi
promised to be a different kind of sitcom, epitomized by the show's central character, Alex Reiger (Judd Hirsch, Ordinary People
): down to earth and compassionate, with neuroses that smacked of real life and not the forced zaniness of too many television shows. Alex was the conscience and emotional caretaker of a makeshift family of cab drivers working out of a grungy garage in New York City, run by the domineering Louis De Palma (Danny DeVito, who would go on to be a bigger star than the rest of the cast in movies like Get Shorty
and Batman Returns
didn't always maintain a degree of realism--if you haven't seen it in a long time, you may be surprised by some of the cornier jokes and bits of slapstick--but at its best, the show managed to merge sadness and humor into rich and satisfying stories.
The third season has many standout episodes. Alex learns that his daughter is getting married but hasn't invited him to the wedding, which leads to a surprisingly sparky confrontation with his ex-wife (guest start Louise Lasser, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman). When single mom Elaine (Marilu Henner) is embarrassed by meeting a more successful high-school friend in her cab, she lies to save face and Alex steps in to back her up. Aspiring boxer Tony (Tony Danza, Who's the Boss?) can't decide how to tell Elaine that her new boyfriend made a pass at him. Tony's sister (guest star Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge on The Simpsons) falls in love with the addled but affable Jim (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit), much to Tony's dismay. Also crucial to the show's success was the oddball presence of Andy Kaufman, whose quirky, unspecifically-Eastern-European mechanic Latka Gravas sometimes made an awkward fit with the rest of the ensemble. But even at his most eccentric, Kaufman was always weirdly watchable, especially in his bizarre, season-closing transformation into the loungy Vic Ferrari. All in all, the third season is an excellent sampling of this sterling sitcom. Sadly, there are no commentaries or other extras. --Bret Fetzer