TV Roundup: Taxi, #20
The list so far:
21. Kids In The Hall
Like I said, we just got started. If you actually care about the random rules I've set for myself, you need to do two things:
1) Go to this link to read the rules.
2) Find a hobby.
|My memory is this blurry, too.|
I was a bit too young when it was aired to see much of the show, though I certainly did see the latter half of the series when it originally aired. I'm not sure that I understood that Christopher Lloyd's Jim Ignatowski character was a burnout, just that he was weird and funny. I didn't realize how annoying Judd Hirsch or his character Alex Rieger were or could be, either.
What makes Taxi such a great series is that within a small confine of the Sunshine Cab company, the viewer really did get to know a complete set of characters, who felt fleshed out enough to be more than just characters. Whether it was Tony Danza's character Tony Banta (and yes, I'm pretty convinced that his character was named that just so Danza wouldn't get confused) reminiscing about boxing (also lifted from Danza's real life), Marilu Henner's Elaine coping with being a single mother, Danny DeVito's insane Louie DePalma, Jeff Conoway's Bobby Wheeler's acting travails or even Hirsch's "straight man" of Alex Rieger, the players in this show were robust and exceptionally likeable. I'm fairly sure there are a few Jim Ignatowski and/or Latke fan clubs out there as well. (Or, at the least, a Facebook fan page.) In addition to Lloyd, perhaps the true breakout star was Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas, a character Wikipedia describes as such:
Latka is an immigrant from a very strange (presumably Eastern European) land, often speaking in his invented foreign tongue ("ibi da", "nik nik"). He works as a mechanic, fixing the taxis. Latka was an adaptation of the "Foreign Man" character Kaufman originated in his stand-up comedy act. He eventually grew tired of the gag, so the writers gave Latka multiple personality disorder, allowing Kaufman to play other characters, the most frequent one being a repellent, smooth-talking lounge-lizard persona calling itself Vic Ferrari. In one episode however, he becomes Alex, with profound insights into "his" life. Just when he is about to reveal to the real Alex the perfect solution for all his problems, he reverts back to Latka.If that sounds weird, it WAS. And mostly in a good way. I absolutely loved Vic Ferrari and his name, though I'm sure half the jokes went over my head. The show dealt with mature subjects in a real but amusing way.
Here is a scene of Latka as Vic Ferrari that you might enjoy:
I definitely remember my parents laughing a lot and I was about the age where I got that it was dealing with more adult topics, even if I couldn't yet relate to those topics myself. The show itself was an incredible critical and popular success, winning 18 Emmy's and being nominated for a total of 31, and launching the careers of basically everyone in the cast. Personally not coincidentally, the show was developed by James L. Brooks and written the first few seasons by Glen and Len Charles, who would all later go on to develop a show I have ranked much higher. (That folks, we call a tease. Unless you have go to IMDB.com where you can fairly quickly figure out this great mystery.)
All that being said, I find it interesting that in projects since this, with the exception of a few films with DeVito and Lloyd, I haven't much liked anything these actors have done since. I am not sure what that means, but I'm going to guess that it means this show caught lightning in a bottle, at least in terms of its personal appeal to me.
I suspect that if I were a bit older, I'd rank Taxi even higher, but I wasn't quite at the age where I could relate to the characters, and by the time I was, the show was less relevant and a bit dated. That being said, it's still quite funny and when I do see it in reruns, I enjoy the hell out of it.
If you asked me to name my favorite scene from Taxi, it would almost assuredly be this one, a memory of Ignatowski on when he first took drugs (by eating 'special' brownies), with a cameo from Tom Hanks to boot. The lava lamp bit alone is worth it. Enjoy.
They should make more shows like this, huh?