I know that Taxi is not one of the best shows to come out of the 70s (though it did win 18 Emmy’s and a couple of Golden Globes, but it’s not like any of that means anything, let’s be honest). What I absolutely love about the show, though, is the odd wave of nostalgia it gives me for “Old” New York, despite the fact that I was born 6 years after the pilot episode aired.
I grew up in Queens, N.Y., and lived on Long Island during high school. I’m glad I lived and grew up where I did, but it would take a lot for me to move back to New York. There are several reasons, but one of the big ones for me is that New York has lost its interestingness.
I just read an interview in Bust with Fran Lebowitz, and she basically summarized what, to me, is completely wrong with New York, now.
“What used to be called middle-class respectability looked like it was going to disappear, but didn’t. It’s returned. It’s just returned in a different costume. If you do it in a loft instead of a split-level in the suburbs, it’s still the same. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be allowed to do it; I’m saying it’s suburban. This is why New York today seems suburban to me — all kids and babies in strollers. It’s 1950s domestic life. The sidewalks are the same size, but now you have twins and dogs.”
Basically New York has become overly safe. I know that sounds ridiculous, but once 9/11 happened, that city lost its true soul. It’s grit. The rest of the country stopped hating on New York, and now it’s being babied to death by politicians who want New York City to be America’s City. That’s all well and good, but this means you have to stop hating foreigners, and understand that NYC is not full of God-fearing, mini van-driving, Applebee’s eating people — and that it’s OK.
Anyway, sorry, I get ranty about what I believe has ruined New York. My point is that Taxi wonderfully embodies the New York of 1978 to me, even though I wasn’t there. The interstitial music is amazing, Andy Kaufman plays a foreign dude just learning the ins and outs of American culture, a dry, sardonic Jewish dude is the anchor of the show, and the lead female is sexy, funny, smart and divorced.
1978 New York is gritty, everyone is sarcastic, and everyone is actually something interesting but moonlights as a taxi driver at night.
– I really love Elaine Nardo, played by Marilu Henner. I remember not thinking much of her character when I was initially watching reruns as a kid on Nick at Nite, but she’s one of the earliest female characters I can think of who is so well-rounded: she’s witty, gorgeous, and impeccably street-smart. And she’s just as cutting as the dudes in the garage. Also, she’s an aspiring artist who spends her days at an art gallery as a receptionist. Really, a refreshing television representation of a fairly liberated woman back in the late 70’s. As my dude pointed out, she’s like Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, 15 years in the past — she’s basically one of the guys, on top of her complete acceptance of her own sexuality. Right on, lady!
– I love how they got rid of John, the boring, green dude after the first season. Before we started watching a couple of episodes, I was thinking about the iconic characters on the show, and when he popped up on the pilot, I was like, “wtf?! I barely remember this guy.” It really made me wonder why the show’s creators thought they needed some gullible, wholesome nice guy to be a part of this cast. He felt so out of place, and not in the way that makes him endearing, or that you care about him. His character is just annoying. It made me feel so bad for Randall Carver, the actor, because I knew he was going to get the boot after some point. I wonder if watching it in 1978, I would have had the same observation.
One of the observations we had was that the concept of money was so out of control. In one episode, they’re talking about how they earned how $2 is too much to spend on something, but Alex is willing to put a $100 bet down that his pal Tony will win a boxing match, which he just happens to have in his pocket.
I also found it interesting that the initial few episodes have nothing to do with them being taxi drivers. In the pilot, Alex and the gang drive down to Miami on a whim so he could finally see his estranged daughter — yeah, that’s pretty atypical for a pilot… The second episode revolves around Tony’s boxing career. The next episode is about how Bobby is waiting for a call on his acting job. Another episode, I believe the 3rd, is about Alex’s date with a fat chick named Angela, who is annoyingly into self-deprication. Seriously, she would be more attractive if she wasn’t such a lump of farts. BTW that episode was the inspiration for what ended up being the actual theme song. The producers preferred a somber, depressing song instead of the upbeat get-ready-for-comedy awesomeness that was “Touchdown,” which was supposed to actually be the theme song.
If anything, throughout these episodes without anything having to do with taxi driving, the only grounding elements were Latka (Andy Kaufman) and Louie (Danny DeVito). Each of these characters served as a bit of a character relief, and were basically bound to the garage, since they held down full-time jobs there. Both of these characters, because they were not “anything else” other than taxi people, therefore making them undesirable. Honestly, if any of the main cast, like 1978 James Conaway or 1978 Tony Danza were the dudes who picked me up in their cabs now, I’d be kinda shocked. They’re too good looking, then or now, to be cab drivers, in my book.
Posted on January 24, 2011, in Quarter 1: Winter 2010, Television and Society and tagged andy kaufman, jeff conaway, judd hirsch, long island, marilu henner, new york city, randall carver, suburbs, taxi, tony danza. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.