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Elaine Nardo: I'm only going to be working here part-time. I'm not really a taxi driver.

Alex Rieger: Oh yeah, I know. We're all part-time here. You see that guy over there? He's an actor. The guy on the phone, he's a prize fighter. This lady over here, she's a beautician. The man behind her, he's a writer. Me? I'm a cab driver. I'm the only cab driver in this place.

This seminal Work Com, which was co-created by James L. Brooks and ran from 1978-83, was set in the grungy headquarters of the New York City-based Sunshine Cab Company.

The cast included:

  • Divorced everyman Alex Reiger (Judd Hirsch).
  • Bombshell single-mom/art-gallery receptionist Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner).
  • Would-be actor Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conaway).
  • Perennially losing (and possibly brain-damaged) boxer Tony Banta (Tony Danza).
  • Wide-eyed immigrant mechanic Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman).
  • 60's uber-burnout "Reverend" Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd).
  • Their vile toad of a dispatcher Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito).

Extremely well-acted and written, the show remains a high point in American sitcom history. As listed below, if you want to see just about any standard sitcom Trope done right, this is the place to come.

If you're looking for the Luc Besson film, you'd want this link.

This Show Provides Examples Of:

  • Absentee Actor: Latka doesn't appear in every episode, as per the terms of Andy Kaufman's contract.
  • Accidental Marriage: John Burns gets into one of these, and it actually sticks.
  • Actor Allusion: There were a number of in-joke references to Andy Kaufman's stand-up act, including having his alter ego Vic Ferrari sing the "Mighty Mouse" theme.
  • The Alleged Car: The company's taxis never exploded, but they did everything short of that.
    • Truth in Television: Taxis in major cities can cover as much mileage in a few weeks as the average personal car does in a year; naturally, breakdowns are more frequent.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Alex, for the most part. A couple of characters finally mentioned his being Jewish toward the end of the series.
  • And This Is For: Simka slaps Latka for each family member of hers he unknowingly mocked with his jokes in "Guess Who's Coming for Brefnish" ("I hope you have a small family...").
  • Ascended Extra: Louie's Beleaguered Assistant, Jeff. Although he never quite made "regular" status, he did get to be the focus of one episode where he's accused of selling auto parts on the black market.
  • As Herself / As Himself
    • Wally "Famous" Amos appeared to Latka in a vision at the end of "Latka's Cookies".
    • Dr. Joyce Brothers was the one to cure Latka of his Split Personality in "The Wedding of Latka and Simka".
    • Jim was set up on a date with his celebrity crush Marcia Wallace in "The Schloogel Show".
    • Penny Marshall was rejected as a potential tenant by the exclusive high-rise Louie was trying to get into in "Louie Moves Uptown".
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The fictional language spoken by Latka, and later his fellow immigrant/wife Simka.
  • Bad Boss: Louie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When Louie's Jerkass antics finally cause Alex to snap, he rips the front off of Louie's wire-mesh dispatcher cage with his bare hands.
    • In "Fantasy Borough", Latka's attempt to share his fantasy with the others is cut short by Louie forcing him to go back to work. In Latka's subsequent daydream he and Louie have switched roles, costumes, and personalities, and it climaxes with Latka about to execute Louie by firing squad.
  • Big Little Man: In the first episode, Louie spends most of his time in the dispacher's cage. When he exit it for the first time to yell at someone and we see how short he really is, it gets a big laugh from the audience.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Almost every week. The cabbies always lose in their attempts to fulfil their dreams and get out of the garage, but there's usually a moment of hope at the very end.
  • The Boxing Episode: Tony was naturally the focus of a number of these.
  • Break the Cutie: Bobby. He always comes closer than anyone to getting out of the garage, and always has his dreams crushed in the most humiliating way possible. Louie delights in reminding Bobby what a failure he is.
    • Word of God is that Louie relishes humiliating Bobby because he's jealous of Bobby's good looks and likability.
  • The Bus Came Back: "Bobby Doesn't Live Here Anymore" was the farewell episode for Jeff Conaway as Bobby, who had left the show a year earlier.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: In the very first episode, Alex is being a wiseguy while "helping" Latka with his English lessons. "Give me a minute while I go to the can," indeed. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Cameo: Several examples over the course of the show.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': A single marijuana-laced brownie sent son-of-wealth-and-privilege Jim spiraling down his life-path.
  • Casanova: Latka's alter ego Vic Ferrari; the former once referred to the latter as "that two-bit bossa nova!"
  • The Cast Showoff: Andy Kaufman, with a season 4 subplot involving Latka's multiple personalities.
  • Catch Phrase: "Tank you veddy much" for Latka, though it predated the show via Andy Kaufman's stage act (Latka was a redressed version of his Foreign Man persona).
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Subverted. "I'd like to tell you there are more important things than being rich and famous... I'd like to tell you, but it's a crock. Being famous is great."
    • This coming from Famous Amos, no less.
  • Channel Hop: From ABC to NBC in its last season.
  • Christmas Episode: Seasons 1 and 5 each had one.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: John Burns (Randall Carver), who was written out after season 1.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Latka got this in Season 1 ("Paper Marriage", the first episode to focus on him) before finally marrying Simka in season 4.
  • Class Reunion: Louie has Bobby attend one in his place. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Clip Show: "A Taxi Celebration", in season 5.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Jim.
  • Courtroom Episode: "Louie Bumps Into an Old Lady"
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: The traditions from Latka and Simka's unnamed country.
  • Crazy Prepared: When Latka needs a styptic pencil, Jim reveals that he's wearing one behind his ear.

 Alex: Jim, why do you carry a styptic pencil behind your ear?

Jim: In light of what just happened, the question is: why don't you?

  • Cultural Stereotypes: Latka and his nameless fictional crapsack homeland, where postage stamps are issued commemorating barbed wire. The homeland has its own acceptable targets in the "mountain people", who are the butt of jokes; Latka and Simka's initial relationship in the season 2 episode "Guess Who's Coming for Brefnish" was brought to an end by this (she's from the mountains).
  • The Danza: Tony Danza played Tony.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: With a pair of goldfishes. The owner, Tony can actually tell the difference between his goldfishes and a replacement.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Louie, and frequently Alex.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: A split second after walking in the door Simka immediately yells at Latka, "You did it with another woman!"
  • Directed by Cast Member: Danny DeVito (3 episodes)
  • Disabled Love Interest: Judy, a blind woman, for Louie.
  • The Ditz: Tony was definitely one of these. John Burns was sort of one, too.
  • Dream Sequence: The "Fantasy Borough" episode.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Jim is pretty much a walking cautionary tale.
  • Erudite Stoner: Jim. ("I must have taken.. music lessons..")
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: Subverted; the Checker Marathon taxis were not supplied by the manufacturer (who, as makers of the then-memetic NYC taxi and with very few sales to the general public, had no need for the Product Placement publicity).
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Of a sort; most of the characters have dreams of stardom or glory outside of the cab garage, and view driving cabs as something temporary, but it's pretty clear that ultimately they aren't going anywhere. Part of Alex being the Only Sane Man is that he's really the only one who accepts that he's a cabbie, and not a boxer / actor / artist (and so on)-in-waiting.

 Louie: Only one guy ever escaped this garage.....and that's James Caan! And he'll be back!

  • Friends Rent Control: Subverted in an episode where Louie considers moving into a huge, very expensive, apartment.
    • Less dramatically, the apartments that Alex, Bobby, etc. live in seem awfully nice for somebody drawing a cabbie's pay, even given an admittedly cheaper '70s NYC.
      • Subverted/Lampshaded by an episode in which Latka accidentally puts an unrefundable deposit on a luxury apartment (he thought it was a year's rent when it was only a month's) and the cabbies chip in to help him pay for the place in exchange for using it as a hang out.
      • Also subverted in Jim's residence: a condemned building which eventually gets torn down.
  • Funny Foreigner: Latka, Simka.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Shots of Jim sniffing the paint as the gang get together to paint an apartment. Director Jim Burrows said he was surprised ABC let him keep it.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Pretty much anyone above Louie in the Sunshine Cab business-hierarchy.
    • Specifically, the garage's owner, Mr. McKenzie, is treated like this, but actually appears (and is played by Stephen Elliott) in "Thy Boss's Wife". Oddly enough, he continues to be given the faceless treatment from that episode on.
    • McKenzie also appears in the episode in which Louie blames Jeff for the missing parts.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: "The Call of the Mild".
  • Hot Mom: Elaine
    • Latka's mom, whom Alex briefly dates.
  • If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: Subverted (without actual killing) by Louie in an episode involving an arrogant hairdresser.
  • Immune to Drugs: Jim.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Bob James' "Angela", originally written for a character of that name in the Season 1 episode "Blind Date" before being bootstrapped for the series itself.
  • Intoxication Ensues:
    • Latka's cookies turn out to have a very special extra ingredient.
    • Another time Alex is given uppers as a headache remedy before being summoned to see the boss.
    • Yet another time Jim innocently puts something in Louie's coffee.

 Alex: Hey, hey, hey, I saw that! What did you put in his coffee?

Jim: Well... it's either a tranqualizer or a chiclet.

(In the middle of giving out cab assignments, Louie falls asleep, snoring loudly.)

Alex: I think we can rule out a chiclet.

  • Ivy League for Everyone: Jim had once attended Harvard.
  • Jerkass: Louie is among the archetypal examples, although we're occasionally given hints that it's at least somewhat of a facade.
  • Last-Name Basis: Louie only calls the cabbies by their last name.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Alex ends up having to pretend to be named "Bill Board" when Elaine desperately makes up a name for an imaginary boyfriend.
    • Better that than Carman Gea.
    • Alex later jokes: "Well, I'm better off than my brothers: Switch and Clip."
  • Local Hangout: Mario's.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Happens to Latka in "Simka Returns" where Simka sleeps not with him but with his suave alter ego Vic Ferrari.
    • Slightly subverted in that Simka knows Vic and Latka are the same person, she just finds the Vic personality more attractive.
  • Mad Magazine: Taxing
  • Malaproper: Latka.

 Alex: Latka, what your mother and I did was indiscreet.

Latka: You mean not even indoors?

  • Mate or Die: Almost leads to the end of Latka and Simka's marriage: Latka sleeps with a female cabbie to stay warm in a snowstorm; according to their reverend, to right this infidelity Simka has to have sex with one of the male cabbies. When Alex refuses, they divorce - but then Jim asks why they can't just remarry...
  • The Movie: The Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon featured scenes recreating memorable Taxi segments with most of the original surviving cast; who unfortunately looked 20 years older, especialy when contrasted with Jim Carrey as Kaufman.
    • And Danny De Vito is forced to be He Who Must Not Be Seen as he played another role in the film.
    • Tony Danza doesn't appear in the film either due to not getting along with Kaufman.
  • Mushroom Samba: Latka sees Famous Amos when trying to recover from cookies his grandmother sent him that turned out to have coca leaves (the basis for cocaine).
  • Naive Newcomer: John Burns in season 1.
    • Elaine, sort of, in the pilot episode.
  • The Napoleon: Louis.
  • No Periods, Period: "Simka's Monthlies" reveals her PMS is so crippling that it's enough to cause her to miss an appointment with the immigration board that she must appear at in order to become an American citizen. Edges into Very Special Episode territory.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Subverted when Louie thinks a woman in a wheelchair is scamming him and pushes her down a flight of stairs. It turns out she wasn't faking this time.
  • Only Sane Man: Alex.
  • Pretty in Mink: The characters would pick up a few rich ladies as customers.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Christopher Lloyd (season 2), Carol Kane (season 5)
  • Prophetic Fallacy: One memorable episode featured Jim predicting Alex's death. Namely, that right before it happened, he would do the cancan while wearing a green shirt and a baseball catcher's mask. Alex actually does it to show he's not afraid of Jim's 'prediction,' and then the doorbell rings...

 Did you see it, Reiger!? It was hideous!!

  • Put on a Bus: Jeff Conaway left the show after the third season, so for most of season 4 Bobby's only appearances were in leftover episodes produced for season 3. Eventually he returned for a departure episode where he moved away to try his luck in Hollywood.
  • Reality Subtext: Andy Kaufman's character develops multiple identities? You don't say!
  • Reunion Revenge: Actor-cabbie Bobby attends Louie's class reunion as Louie.
  • Secret Test of Character: Latka and Simka's wedding ceremony climaxes with a set of questions they have to answer correctly. When Latka gets the last one wrong, Simka declares she will marry him anyway even if she has to defy their religion. Thus, they pass the true test of the strength of their love.
  • Ship Tease: Alex and Elaine had quite a bit of this throughout the show's run. Nothing came of it.
  • Sitcom Character Archetypes
    • Alex: Square and Sage
    • Louie: Bully
    • Latka, Jim, and Tony: Goofball
    • Bobby: Charmer
  • The Smurfette Principle: Elaine, at least until Simka became a semi-regular.
  • Split Personality: In the last episode of Season 3, Latka reinvented himself as suave-but-smug Vic Ferrari to be more attractive to women. Eventually, Vic found it hard to remember who he once was; while Alex helped Latka out of this, early in Season 4 it was revealed that Latka now had multiple personalities. This became an ongoing subplot that tied in to the return of Simka later that season (Latka had to fight Vic for her affections); ultimately Latka was cured and free to propose to Simka.
    • One notable personality Latka developed was that of Alex himself — not only was it a dead-on imitation (props to Andy Kaufman), but Alex found out Latka lived his life better than he did himself (making better choices, giving better advice, etc.)
  • Star-Making Role: For Hirsch, DeVito, Danza, Kaufman and Lloyd.
  • Studio Audience
  • The Taxi
  • Token Minority: Jeff.
  • True Companions: Especially in later seasons. The Official Fan's Guide even says that the cast was like this off the set, too.
  • Uncanceled: The show jumped networks (from ABC to NBC) and hung around for one more season.
  • Vanity Plate: "Good night, Mr. Walters!" [grumbles]
    • For the Christmas Episode it was changed to the young lady saying "Merry Christmas, Mr Walters!" she still got the grumble in response.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Alex and Louie.
  • Wacky Guy: Jim and Latka.
  • Waiting for a Break: Bobby, the aspiring actor who spends the series driving a cab while waiting to get a Star-Making Role.
    • Most of the cabbies except Alex claim that they're only driving to support themselves until they get a break in their dream jobs (boxing, art).
  • Welcome Episode: Although Alex is the closest thing the show has to a central character, the first episode is Elaine's first day at the company.
  • Wham! Line: "Could I please just say one word in my defense? SELTZER!" ("Jim's Mario's")
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: "Memories of Cab 804", "On the Job", "The Road Not Taken"
  • Who's on First?: "What does a yellow light mean?"
  • Why Didn't You Just Say So?
  • Work Com
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Latka's name is Yiddish for "potato pancake."

"Goodnight Mr. Walters!" Grumble