Thursday, June 5, 2014

TV Break: The Resonance of Taxi

I am a pathetic old man, since I primarily use my Hulu subscription to watch old reruns of 70s television shows rather than keeping up on the latest stuff.  I've recently grown partial to Taxi, a show I saw quite a lot as a child, even though it started airing before my time.  Back in the olden times before my family had cable, my TV options were rather limited, and certain hours of the day were very TV intensive.  We used to eat dinner early, about 5:30-6 o'clock, farmhand hours.  In the Central time zone back then networks would run a half-hour rerun after the local news and before the regular prime time schedule got started.  Three shows dominated the reruns in central Nebraska back then, Benson, The Muppet Show, and Taxi.

While I tended to watch the Muppets, I liked Taxi, too.  Living in such a rural place, I got a kick out of the whole notion of taxi cabs, much less the shot of the New York skyline refracted through the 59th Street Bridge in the opening credits.  (When my family crossed a tiny cantilevered bridge in Red Cloud, Nebraska, my sisters and I called it "the Taxi bridge."  Needless to say, we were unaware of the scale of the 59th Street Bridge.)  I loved Danny DeVito's wily and rascally Louie DePalma, and got a kick out of characters like Latka and Reverend Jim.

It was a very adult show, so nowadays I appreciate it on a whole other level.  Almost all of the characters were driving taxis because they were struggling to succeed in their chosen fields, or had failed out of them.  Many of the characters are lost souls, like 60s burnout Reverend Jim, and confused immigrant Latka.  It's a show born in the economic downturn of the late 1970s, and for that reason reflects our own economic hard times.  I have plenty of friends who have had to give up their old dreams for the reality of needing a steady gig.  What starts as a way to make money while searching for better opportunities becomes the only option left.

What Taxi shows is that while few of us ever realize our dreams, it is important to have the right kind of people around us in our day to day lives.  The cabbies form a kind of family, united in their affection for each other and their resistance to their tyrannical boss.  In a time when employers hold all the cards, and plenty of folks are working full time at was once supposed to be a transitional day job, it's a show that's more relevant than ever.

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