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TV Review: Cash Cab

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Oh, I admit it’s a fantasy. It’s one that I suppose could happen, although I tend to take the subway more than taxicabs in Manhattan. But, I do take cabs now and then. Sometimes I even get a cabbie who can speak English or one doesn’t drive like a maniac. Yep, it happens!

But…what if I got in a NYC taxicab and all of a sudden lights started flashing across the ceiling like a bad flashback to the Studio 54 disco days? What if I had a driver whose name was easy to pronounce? Oh, something as easy to say as “Ben Bailey”? What if, out of the 13,000 taxicabs in the city, I caught the Cash Cab? Easy money or I’d fall on my face, kicked out of the cab in the rain, in a bad neighborhood or wherever I happened to hit the third wrong answer to the quiz questions posed by Ben, a real NYC cab driver in a real NYC taxi. Albeit, it’s the Cash Cab, a relatively new show on the Discovery Channel.

Like many successful shows as far back as All in the Family and as recent as American Idol, this show originated in the United Kingdom. But now that it’s based in New York City, it takes on a life of its own in a city close to my heart, and perhaps the hearts of others who like to see actual Manhattan doings. New York is one of those cities that draws folks in from far and wide. I’m lucky enough to live close enough to go into Manhattan for an evening out and still make it to work in the morning. But many who are mesmerized by its magic settle to just see it on television and in the movies. Cash Cab isn’t only a fun little game show, it’s a trip (or several) through the city and a peek at the city life in Manhattan.

Unlike a show such as Street Smarts, it isn’t for the the totally clueless. The questions aren’t horribly tough to start out, but do require a thinking mind and an idea of what’s happening in the world. Once in the cab, the disco light ceiling lights up and cabbie Ben Bailey tells the passengers they’re on television to participate in a game show. Now, I did a bit of research — some of the passengers are indeed “plants” but even they don’t exactly know it’s the Cash Cab. They know they’re going to be on television and think the cab is just the vehicle they’ll take to their destination. After being told what they’re in for, the passengers have to spend about 15 minutes filling out release forms, so the show tends to lose folks in a true hurry. Me? Unless I was hitting the last train or bus back over or under the river to New Jersey, I’d take the time! Heck, even if I was, it’s only a three hour or so wait in Penn Station before 5:15 a.m. rolls around. I shouldn’t be out that late at night anyway, right? May as well win money!

The first round of trivia questions are worth $25 each. Then the rounds go to $50 and $100 each. There’s also a Red Light Bonus Question if you happen upon a red light. (A red light in Manhattan is more common than green, sheesh!) If you get three questions wrong, you lose all your winnings and get tossed out of the cab wherever you may be. Contestants are allowed two shout-outs for help with questions. They can ask someone on the street or make a call. At the end of the ride (if you make it to your destination), the offer is made to double your winnings or lose it all based on a video bonus question. I only found this show a week or so ago and haven’t seen anyone taking Ben up on that offer. The passengers are filmed walking away with the cash or empty-handed. I believe they’re actually mailed a check and the cash is just for the filming, but it’s still money for nothing and the check’s for free! Or, something to that effect.

What I enjoy about this show besides sitting at home answering the questions in the same manner I do when I watch Jeopardy are the locales. Where the people are going, what their plans are — Ben asks them at the start of each ride. Because I’m in and out of the city a lot, I know the locations and some of the things I might actually do when I’m there. I mean…it could happen to me! I’ll be watching for cab number 1G12 the next time I go into Manhattan!

But, in reality I’ll probably get a cabbie named Abdul who’s eating something reeking of onions and complaining about street fairs blocking the main thoroughfares. I’ve only had a few interesting taxi rides in my life — once when the cabbie told me he had to take a detour because Godzilla was tying up traffic all around Central Park West (a movie was being shot, but he told me Godzilla and I said, “Cool!”) and another with a minor accident between two cabs that turned to a screamfest between the drivers. This is the best thing since Adam West (Batman) told me to buckle up my seatbelt in a cab.

Cash Cab can be seen in the NYC area on the Discovery Channel at both 6:00 and 6:30 PM weekdays. Check your local listings for the times in your area. Give it a peek and let me know if you’d like to take that ride! I know I would.

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  • http://blogcritics.org Joanie

    Congrats! Your article was chosen for Advance.net

  • Chris

    I LOVE Cash Cab. I think that if you show the contestants who don’t choose to go for double or nothing the video that they would have gotten if they went on. I think it show them if they made the right or wrong choose. I think that would also get the rating up:)

  • http://www.comcast.net ron archer

    Best show on TV!

  • anonymous

    does anyone know where i can download the sound effects that Ben has on his ipod that he plays during the show like the right and wrong answers and the musical sounder he plays when someone gets into the cab

  • Gail Politica

    I love the show. The other day I was watching with some friends, and thought it would be a good idea to play the video question at the end when they have declined, just to see if they would have won or not.

  • James Beran

    A really fun show. The reactions of the fares are often priceless. The show has won a number of TV awards, and despite that Discovery reently moved the show from its 6:00 & 6:30 PM times, here in SoCal to 9:00 and 9:30 AM. That did not last for more then a week as fans bombarded the shows comment area with their displeasure. An amazing number of people know about the show. I tell all my friends about the fun of it all, and they soon become viewers. I do think a good change would be to give the street shout out helpers, the amount of the question. Cheap for the show relative to the word of mouth advertising they would get in return, not to mention the added reactions to their windfall…

  • Mike S

    I love the show with the male host, the loud obnoxious blonde woman is so annoying I can’t watch and imediately change the channel. Affirmative action rears its head again, and it’s not pretty.

  • Tom T

    Great show, but will lose viewers if they continue to let the “audio guys/gals” insert drumbeats and music that interferes with the voices. Kill the drum noises when people are speaking…or dump the audio guy.
    It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know when to shut down the background “noise”…