These days, Taxi, which ran for five seasons between 1978 and 83, is somewhat overshadowed in the annals of TV history by Cheers, which took Taxi’s structure of an ensemble comedy based almost exclusively around a single location to even greater heights.
Nonetheless, Taxi remains one of the great American sitcoms. Its greatest strength was the fantastic mix of characters, played by an extremely eclectic and talented cast.
I’m a big fan of the late, great Andy Kaufman, who played innocent and naive foreign mechanic Latka Gravas on the show – but much as I admire his exceptional talent, for me the show’s scene-stealing star was “reverend” Jim Ignatowski, played by Christopher Lloyd (who would later find even greater fame as Doc Brown in the Back to The Future movies).
Jim was one of TV’s great creations. A permanently bemused and befuddled spaced-out relic of the drug-fuelled counter-culture – “the living embodiment of the 60s”, as he once described himself. Yet, over the course of the series, an intriguing back-story emerged for Jim which, combined with Lloyd’s masterful performance in the role, provided the character with, arguably more depth and charm than any other on the show. And, more importantly, he got most of the funniest scenes.
Yet Jim was not even in the original cast. He appeared as a guest star in one episode of the first season and made such an impression that the producers bought him back full time in the second season. And the rest is history.
When they brought him back, they were faced with the problem of how to integrate him into the cast given that his character was clearly not someone you would consider a suitable taxi driver. The resultant scene as the gang try to help him get his cab driver’s licence is one of the greatest sitcom scenes ever.
Oh-okey doke! Enjoy!