What seemed like salvation turned into a mere respite before the demise. Taxi was a comic force winning three straight Emmys for Best Comedy, but it never recovered in the ratings after being bumped off ABC’s Tuesday night schedule. The show missed being teamed with Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Three’s Company. After the fourth season, ABC canceled its formally prized series. Luckily NBC rescued it for a promising fifth season. Their new network home slotted the series with the freshman comedy Cheers. This was a perfect match since Cheers was created by former Taxi director James Burrows and producers Les Charles and Glen Charles. The future seemed bright for the Sunshine Cab Company. So why is this Taxi: The Final Season? Cheers finished 77 of the 77 shows on network TV, but network sensed it would gain a following. Taxi got thrown under the bus.
The fifth season episodes gave more time to the extremely colorful characters of Latka (Andy Kaufman), Simka (Carol Kane) and Rev. Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd). While the comedy is a little broader, it doesn’t lose it’s cerebral or emotional edge. “Love Un-American Style” turns Latka and Simka into the garage’s matchmakers. Part of their country’s customs includes newlywed couples setting up their single friends on blind dates to share their loving feeling. The gang cautiously drops by Mario’s restaurant to meet their perfect mates. Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner) doesn’t quite get the man of her dreams in Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride). Jim has what’s left of his mind blown by actress Marcia Wallace (The Bob Newhart Show). Turns out Rev. Jim is such a fan of her old show that he’s created a theme song for her. Alex Reiger (Judd Hirsch) has a prickly time with his date. This makes Latka and Simka fearing their marriage will be cursed. Was Simka wrong in picking the perfect woman for Alex?
“Jim’s Inheritance” makes Rev. Jim a millionaire when his dad passes away. But Jim’s brother wants him declared incompetent so the spacey cabbie can’t control the funds. Louie has to fight to prove his cabbie is a genius in his own way. While there are music replacements in this boxset, I’m happy to inform you that the playing of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” is part of this episode. “Alex Goes off the Wagon” has the wise Alex go nuts on a gambling streak. He’s almost ready for an episode of Intervention with his desire to rob a friend to keep up the action on the craps table.
“Scenskees from a Marriage” is a two-part episode about the end of Latka and Simka’s honeymoon period. Latka has sex with Allyce Beasley (Moonlighting) to keep warm inside a snowbound cab. He confesses his survival sex to Simka. They take it to their native priest (the late Vincent Schiavelli). He declares the only way to get this straightened out is to have Simka sleep with one of Latka’s co-workers. The couple throw a party and the last guest to arrive will be chosen for a fling with her. Will she get peeled like a grape for the sake of her marriage? A bit of trivia is that a few years later, Beasley and Schiavelli would marry. “Crime and Punishment” finally lets Jeff (J. Alan Thomas) be the center of an episode. People often talk there being no small parts. Thomas proved it by playing the nearly silent assistant dispatcher for all five seasons. Now he gets a chance to set outside the cage. Unfortunately it’s to take the fall for one of Louie’s skimming schemes. Will his loyalty to Louie get him sent to jail? After being such a minor character, Thomas proves he should have had a few more chances to work front stage. They also finally show us the mysterious upstairs office. “Taxi: A Celebration” is a two part clipshow without any flashback framework. This is a good primer for the series.
It appears that the producers of Taxi thought they had a chance of renewal by NBC since the final episode is far from a series finale. “Simka’s Monthlies” has her overpowering PMS threaten to get her deported. She and Latka can’t make it down to the immigration office to prove their marriage was legit. She’s a complete mess, but the calm Alex talks her toward sanity. The final scene is Latka and Simka. There’s no fond farewells from Tony (Tony Danza), Louie, Elaine or Alex. It’s just a normal episode. There’s probably people who wish their had been some 90 minute special finale with Alex and Elaine getting married. So many very special final episodes have been letdowns including Cheers, Seinfeld and M*A*S*H. It’s a good thing that they didn’t put a bow on the cabbies’ lives. It gives people hope that even today when they hail a cab, they’ll see Elaine behind the wheel.
“Love Un-American Style,” “Jim’s Inheritance,” “Alex Goes off the Wagon,” “Scenskees from a Marriage” (two-parter), “Crime and Punishment,” “Alex the Gofer,” “Louie’s Revenge,” “Travels with My Dad,” “Elaine and the Monk,” “Zena’s Honeymoon,” “Get Me Through the Holidays,” “Louie Moves Uptown,” “Alex’s Old Buddy,” “Sugar Ray Nardo,” “A Taxi Celebration” (two-parter), “Alex Gets Burned by an Old Flame,” “Louie and the Blind Girl,” “ Arnie Meets the Kids,” “Tony’s Baby,” “Jim’s Mario’s,” “A Grand Gesture” and “Simka’s Monthlies.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The image isn’t quite as sharp as the first four seasons. I’m wondering if part of the deal to go over to NBC, the series cut the budget by doing the post-production on video instead of 35mm film. This is most evident on “Taxi: A Celebration.” It still looks better than the best episode of Soup. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. You’ll get a clear ear of the foreign language spoken between Latka and Simka.
Episodic Promos (0:30) are included for every episode. These were created for the syndication release.
Series Promos (1:00) has two commercials created for promoting the series in syndication.
Taxi: The Final Season wraps up a great sitcom. The lack of a real finale episode should be received as good news after all the overdrawn schmaltz that accompanies a majority of sitcom goodbyes. Instead we’re given 22 solid comedies along with 2 clip shows without the worry that these characters are going away. Alex, Tony, Jim and Elaine will always be cruising the streets of Manhattan in search of fares.
CBS DVD presents Taxi: The Final Season. Starring: Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman, Marilu Henner, Carol Kane and Tony Danza. Boxset contents: 24 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: December 22, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: ABC, cheers, Christopher Lloyd, Danny Devito, Happy Days, M*A*S*H, NBC, Seinfeld, Taxi, Three's Company