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You Should Be Watching: 'Taxi'

If you are looking for smart situation comedy in a gritty urban setting, make your way to the mad Manhattan workplace of Taxi. This star-studded series, featuring such legends as Andy Kaufman, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Lloyd, always delivers its comedy fare.

Title: Taxi

Year it began: 1978

Where it can be seen: CBS.com; Amazon; Hulu; DirecTV

Who’s in it: Andy Kaufman; Judd Hirsch; Danny DeVito; Marilu Henner; Tony Danza; Jeff Conaway; Carol Jane; Christopher Lloyd

Typical episode length: 24 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 114

Brief plot description: Eccentric cabbies live out their lives at the Sunshine Cab Company, managed by the nasty Louie De Palma. The cast features good-hearted cabbie Alex Reiger as the voice of reason and bright-eyed foreigner Latka Gravas as the mechanic.

Why it’s worth watching: Making hilarious use of its all-star ensemble of characters, "Taxi" offers both knee-slapping comic plots and smart cultural commentary. Played to repugnant perfection by DeVito, the vile De Palma creates community among the workers he insults from the safety of his chain-link reinforced company cage. Hirsch’s Reiger plays an everyman cab driver whose sensitive soul and knack for helping others make him a friend of all of the misfits working at Sunshine, while Henner’s Elaine Nardo consistently calms and charms the chaotic garage. "Taxi" brilliantly situates much of the show in a workplace lobby: while cabbies waiting for cars banter about their lives, plots thicken and comic situations are set. A running theme that makes the show a bittersweet reflection on our own work anxieties is its emphasis on cabbies clinging to frustrated career ambitions. Danza offers a sweet, but doomed vibe to his Tony Banta, a boxer who regularly reports on his defeats, while Conaway projects both the pretentiousness and pathos of Bobby Wheeler, a would-be actor forced to take whatever bit roles come his way. Two performances transform "Taxi" into top-shelf comedy: Kaufman’s often childlike Latka and Lloyd’s earnest, but insane Rev. Jim Ignatowski. Kaufman’s Latka creates anarchic humor with his limited sense of American ways and his frequent use of the language and customs of his mysterious home country. Latka’s later development of multiple personalities allows Kaufman to channel even more of his comic genius. Lloyd offers consistently bizarre humor with his spaced-out Rev. Jim, whose gentle ways and constant disorientation enliven "Taxi’s" garage.

– Randy P. Schiff

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