Saturday, January 08, 2005

How great of a show is Taxi?

We got the first season on DVD. John's a huge Andy Kaufman fan, so this has been something we both have been waiting for. I've never really LIVED for the show (like my Kotter obsession- when the hell is that masterpiece coming out???) but I do enjoy Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Kaufman, Jeff Conaway and Judd Hirsch as actors, as well as I remember a few classic episodes, like the one where they break into "Lullaby of Broadway," so this was something I was interested in sitting and viewing as well.

The show is so ahead of its time, having episodes that deal positively and sensitively with topics like homosexuality, animal cruelty, drug use, and, one of my favorites, where Alex (Judd Hirsch) attempts to befriend and date a big and beautiful woman despite her insecurities. The characters are very multi-dimensional, and running gags aren't used often. It's a fun dichotomy and you do actually believe the characters are friends. Marilu Henner's cheerful Elaine is portrayed as a strong and confident single mother who strives for a self-defining career. Actor Bobby (Jeff Conaway) balances creativity, confidence and vulnerability about finding a job. Tony Danza (who portrays aspiring boxer Tony) and Andy Kaufman's (Latka) characters run the biggest risk of falling into a one-dimentional catagory or being the butt of the jokes (the "dumb jock" and the "foreign guy"), but not so. The writers created a sweet and caring man in Tony, and take care to portray Latka as a member of the group despite the language barrier- the others ask his advice, invite him along, and accept him when he falls short (he shows up at Elaine's fancy dinner party in dirty overalls, and when Alex explains what the dress code was, he leaves, only to show up a few minutes later in the same outfit, only sparkling white. Elaine shruggs, smiles, and nothing more is made of it). Even John (Randall Carver), the stereotypical "farm boy in the big city" character, doesn't fit into one box either- naive and curious, he meets a girl within the first few episodes, and after a one-night stand, marries her (they do stay together but a real marriage life is portrayed). He's probably the only "farm boy" in a series I've seen that doesn't encounter everything with wide-eyed amazement. Even the "villian," Danny DeVito's Louie DePalma, has his human moments, which is virtually unheard of in a first season. He mouthes off to an abusive dog owner and allows the dog to become the garage mascot, aids illegal alien Latka in avoiding an arrest and deportation, lectures a young female cabbie about the dangers of taking uppers, pretends to be Tony's lover to run off a woman who was stalking Tony, and in turn, the others assist him in pulling off a huge and hillarious ruse at his high school reunion. Even Hirsch, the straight man, is allowed to expand and get creme-pied often. A scene where he accidently takes too many amphetamines to get rid of a headache is great. The writing is original and funny. It's a mellow, fun classic show. We can't wait for the next seasons to come out, because Christopher Lloyd joins the cast. Awesome.

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