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DVD Review: Taxi – The Fourth Season

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CBS/Paramount presents the continuing adventures of the employees of the Sunshine Cab Company with the release of the Fourth Season of Taxi, the final year it aired on ABC. The following year on NBC would its last.

The cast of characters feature fulltime cabbie Alex Rieger (Judd Hirsch), divorced mother Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner) who also works in an art gallery, former boxer Tony Banta (Tony Danza), ‘60s burnout Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd), and mechanic Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman) an immigrant from the island of Caspiar. They all work under the mean and vengeful eye of head dispatcher Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito), one of the more despicable characters in television sitcoms.

This season, Louie’s shenanigans include sleeping with his girlfriend’s drunken friend, attempting to ruin his mother’s wedding to an elderly Japanese man, and getting caught peeping on Elaine as she changes clothes. Actor Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conaway), a former series regular, makes a return appearance after having left for Hollywood in “Bobby Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” as does Simka (Carol Kane), a young woman from Caspiar who Latka fell in love with though she’s a different ethnicity.

The strength of the show comes from the writing. Creators James L. Brooks, Allan Burns, Stan Daniels, David Davis, and Ed.Weinberger have an amazing pedigree in television comedy. Their combined resume of series they created, produced, or wrote for include The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newheart Show, The Simpsons, Get Smart, The Munsters, and The Cosby Show. Writer Sam Simon went on to develop The Simpsons with Brooks and Matt Groenig, and Glen & Les Charles created Cheers.

It’s hard to believe ABC cancelled the series after this season because it is consistently very funny. “Jim The Psychic” finds Alex tempting fate after Jim predicts the bizarre circumstances of his death. “Cooking For Two” finds Louie in one of the few instances where he acts like a compassionate human being when he takes a recently homeless Jim into his apartment. Naturally, the fates punish his kindness.

Alex and Louie seek team up and revenge for Elaine in “The Unkindest Cut” after she receives a terrible haircut, which cost a whopping $200, and is insulted by the stylist (Ted Danson). The best part of this season occurred due to Kaufman’s boredom with playing Latka. To accommodate him, the writers gave Latka multiple personality disorder, which manifests itself in sleazy womanizer Vic Ferrari and co-worker Alex Rieger, to Alex’s frustration.

The DVDs are presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3 and the audio is mono.

If you are looking for quality sitcoms, hail Taxi – The Fourth Season. It offers almost 10 hours of laughs as the meter runs.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Dimetre

    The fourth season of Taxi was its best season yet, and Taxi is easily one of my favourite TV shows of all time, but I am very disappointed in this DVD collection. Paramount released the first three seasons of Taxi on DVD, but this season is released by CBS, and they didn’t bother getting the rights to any of the music the characters sing in any of their scenes, so those moments are just edited out.

    In the third season you could see the entire cast of Taxi belt out “Lullaby of Broadway.” Now, in the episode “Vienna Waits” when a fellow traveller seranades Elaine with Billy Joel song, that’s gone. I was mad at Billy Joel when I saw that, until a similar thing happened in another episode. In the episode “Nina Loves Alex,” Alex is trying to doze in the backseat of a cab driven by a young aspiring actress nursing a crush on him. She belts out “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, but not on this DVD.

    Then, a sin that should be punishable by death. One of the greatest episodes of any TV show ever is “Elegant Iggy.” After Jim dazzles the crowd with Chopin’s “Fantasy Impromptu” (which, after hundreds of years, must be in the public domain) we cut to what must be a good while later when the crowd is gathered around the piano, and he’s singing “Two Sleepy People” with a smitten woman. But not on this DVD. He simply plays “Fantasy Impromptu” and leaves with Elaine.

    Taxi deserves much better treatment than this, and its fans deserve better treatment than this. CBS, who exactly do you think this is good enough for? If you’re going to collect a classic show, do the job right or don’t do it at all.

    If CBS is planning to give give the same slipshod treatment to the fifth and final season, I’m already weeping. I can’t imagine “Jim’s Inheritance” without Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” or “Jim’s Mario’s” without “Ebb Tide” or “Lazy River.” The fact that these songs could be used without incident 27 years ago, but can’t appear on the DVD collection all these years later is a sad comment on the litigious age in which we live. Or how cheap CBS is.