Last week the topic of the WordPress Photo Challenge was yellow and the first thing that came to my mind was a yellow taxi cab. In my mind’s eye I could see the yellow cabs in the garage of the old TV series, Taxi.
As memories of the show came back to me, I realized that the color yellow was an overlooked cast-member. From the grimy, faded yellow walls of the Dispatch office to the cabs in the background waiting for repairs, Taxi used the color yellow in the way that Krzysztof Kieslowski used a single color (red, white or blue) to dominate in his Three Colors trilogy.
To this day, Taxi remains one of my all-time favorite TV series because of its use of humor to reveal everyday truths. The plot was simple: The staff of a New York City taxicab company go about their job while they dream of greater things. [Source: imdb.com]
Just like many real-life workplaces, most of the employees would rather be doing something else, somewhere else, instead of working for their current employer (in this case, The Sunshine Cab Co.).
- Tony Danza plays the character of Tony Banta, a Vietnam Vet and part-time boxer who is trying to move up into the professional ranks while driving a cab to pay the bills.
- Jeff Conaway is cast as Bobby Wheeler, an aspiring actor who is trying to make it a full-time profession.
- Marilu Henner has the part of Elaine Nardo, a single mother of two small children who is struggling to support her family as a cab driver and move from part-time to full-time employee in an Art Gallery.
Judd Hirsch is Alex Reiger, a divorced father and the only employee who is not trying to be anything other than a cab driver. Reiger is our “everyman”, the guy that suits up and shows up everyday at work—he is the guy who is living in The Present.
Alex Reiger’s challenge is to be supportive of his fellow drivers and their dreams of better things, all the while remaining true to his own acceptance of life. Does Alex have low expectations? No ambition? Is he really happy? These subtle threads weave in and out of the episodes and give us a chance to ponder our own situation.
If Alex Reiger is the Compassionate One then Louie DePalma, played by Danny DeVito, is the personification of Evil at the management level of business. As the Dispatcher, Louie controls the daily lives of the drivers—Who gets a cab? Will it have a working heater? Louie is out to take care of Louie, and his distorted relationship with the rest of the cast provides us an opportunity to examine our own relationships with others.
Here is a look at a scene in which Alex Reiger is trying to get Louie to take it easy on Bobby Wheeler. Bobby had quit the company to do an off-Broadway show that failed and he is coming in to get his old job back.
“…I shouldn’t? That’s the
reason why? I shouldn’t?…”
That selfish, self-centered inner child in us is on display in the form of Louie DePalma. Alex is that voice of inner goodness, that part of us that instinctively knows the right thing to do whether or not others agree. How do you communicate that message? I believe that the writers wisely chose to do it by example. Reiger didn’t preach or pontificate to get his point across. Louie ultimately found the answer inside himself, albeit not without much difficulty.
Christopher Lloyd rounds out the main cast in the role of Reverend Jim— a hippy-dippy, devil-may-care, ‘60s Flower Child who is caught up in life 10 years later. Jim is the Man-child in us, floating through life, causing no harm and getting by on the kindness of others. Excessive drug-use has taken a toll on him and his cognitive abilities—a lesson and a warning wrapped in humor and served on wry.
Here is a look at Jim in the DMV when he takes his driving test.
Taxi received 18 Primetime Emmy Awards over five years, including Outstanding Comedy Series for three years in a row (1979—81), and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for two years in a row (1981—82).
This short video is a great example of how writers and actors can combine their talents to produce a memorable scene.
Wrap it up—I’ll take it
Humor, farce, satire, sarcasm, allegory, fable, human nature. If you look deep enough and think hard enough about it I believe that you will come away with the same thought as I did: Taxi is one funny show, on many different levels, depending on where your headspace is when you watch it.
Does any scene stand out in my mind? Oh yeah, that would be the one with Nardo in her blue dress! Note: My wife tells me that it is a musical number…
Do you have any favorite scenes or characters in Taxi?