For tv viewers of the late 1970s, a unique sitcom came to the airwaves – all about New York City cabbies called Taxi.
Created by James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis and Ed Weinberger, Taxi was about the characters who ran the Sunshine Taxi Company in NYC.
Many of the cast of characters considered their jobs temporary, but it was an ongoing love-hat with driving a cab and reporting to their dispatcher, Louie de Palma, played by Danny Devito.
Judd Hirsch played Alex Rieger, the thoughtful driver who looked at his job as a career, unlike his cohorts Elaine (Marilu Henner), Tony (Tony Danza), Iggy (Christopher Lloyd), Bobby (Jeff Conaway) and Latka (Andy Kaufman.
Each episode showed the reality of their unsatisfying lives, and the dream of becoming better and having it disappear – like losing a boxing match, an acting role a or a better job opportunity. The ensemble was a snapshot of the working man and woman.
Lloyd’s Iggy, a burnt out hippie/minister and Kaufman’s innocent mechanic Latka added a strange comic addition to the more conventional roles played by Henner, Danza, Conaway and Hirsch, while Devito’s dispatcher was a mean, crazy and odd man who acted out from the safety of his office/cage.
Debuting on ABC in 1978, the series may have a a half hour of laughs, but tackled serious storylines such as divorce, sexual harassment, drug addiction, alcoholism, blindness, obesity, gambling addiction and bisexuality, reflecting the reality of a changing society and the vices and dangers of a big city.
The series was a tv viewer favourite and an award favourite, nominated for 31 Emmy awards, and winning 18, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1979. The series was also nominated for 25 Golden Globe Awards and was chosen by TV Guide as one of the 50 Greatest TV shows of all time.
After four seasons, the series moved to rival network NBC, but then was cancelled after its fifth year, with many of its main characters wanting to move on as well as the storylines not being as popular with viewers.
As a snapshot of changing society, it may have been all about the laughs, but for me and many viewers, it was a half hour of comedy and society commentary.