TITLE: TAXI - THE FOURTH SEASON
DVD Release Date: September 22, 2009 (CBS DVD)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 9 hours and 41 minutes
Total Runtime of special features: 13 minutes & 47 seconds
Audio: English (Mono)
Special Features: Episodic Promos
Ready to roll once again with the friendly, fun-loving cabbies of the Emmy Award-winning hit sitcom Taxi? Well then buckle up for hilarity because the gang of the Sunshine Cab Company are out to exceed the limits of comedy in this 4th season set! First, Jim (Christopher Lloyd) might not be firing on all cylinders, but his amazing psychic abilities are...then Elaine (Marilu Henner) blows a gasket when she catches Louie (Danny DeVito) spying on her in the garage bathroom...Tony (Tony Danza) meanwhile appears back on the track to boxing fame. Bobby (Jeff Conaway) hits town with some big career news, Alex has outrageous run-ins with both his estranged father and his ex-wife. Meanwhile Latka (Andy Kaufmann) may actually marry Simka (Carol Kane) -- if his suave alter ego Vic Ferrari doesnít accidentally get in the way. It is 24 episodes of non-stop high-octane hilarity in this three disc set.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Here we have the final ABC season. The show was in a ratings decline from which it wouldnít recover, and at the end of the season ABC decided to cancel the show. The fourth season, though, isnít bad -- itís just that by this point the mass audience has moved on to other series of the time and the interest just isnít there.
The season, for what itís worth, starts off spectacularly with an episode held over from season three -- Jim the Psychic. Jim announces heís been having psychic dreams -- including one that ends with Alexís death. The characters begin to worry when Jimís psychic dream premonitions begin to come true one by one. To be honest, you may notice a pattern in my reviews: I love the Jim-centric episodes. Iím a HUGE fan of Christopher Lloyd in general, and his character on this show is absolutely wonderful. The seasonís 4th episode is one such episode -- and itís also a jab at the absurdity of TV programming executives. Jimís psychic powers manifest once again while driving around a TV executive. Jimís powers predict the ratings. The executive, looking for the next thing to use as a basis for programming decisions, begins consulting Jim in an effort to maximize ratings. This is a great episode all-around, as youíd expect given the focus on Jim.
The executive in the episode above is portrayed by the hilarious Martin Short, one of several guest stars this season. Jeff Conaway, who had played Bobby in previous years, returns for the first of a set of recurring appearances in ďBobby Doesnít Life Here Anymore.Ē Louise Lasser from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman appears in ďTake My Ex-Wife, Please.Ē Bubba Smith, known for both his football career and for appearing in the Police Academy movies, appears in ďTonyís Comeback.Ē Ted Danson, months away from starring on Cheers -- the show Taxi would be paired with at first on NBC -- appears in ďThe Unkindest Cut.Ē Dr. Joyce Brothers appears as herself in ďThe Wedding of Latka and Simka.Ē
The season finale - the final two ABC episodes - is split across two parts and features two guests. The first is in part two -- and I know him best as the dad (Willie Tanner) from ALF -- Max Wright. The other is, in all honesty, slightly more famous. He appears in Part 1 -- having just had his own show, Bosom Buddies, cancelled itself. Appearing in part ONE of ďThe Road Not TakenĒ is Tom Hanks. The episode is quite good, with Elaine being offered a job in Seattle. On the fence, she asks the folks at the cab company for advice, leading to their reminiscing about various similar experiences.
After this episode, ABC canceled the show. Even as late as Danny DeVitoís appearance on Saturday Night Live on May 15, 1982 it was assumed the show was dead. The Taxi cast even appeared on the aforementioned SNL episode to take a ďfinal bowĒ as they hadnít done so after ďThe Road Not TakenĒ as the episode was never meant to be a series finale. Shortly after that, Taxi it was announced would be paired with Cheers on NBC for the 1982-83 season. But that story is saved for next seasonís release, assuming there is one...
If you know who owns the show, or read far enough into my review to see who is putting out this DVD release, you pretty much know every word thatís going to be written in this section. For those of you who may be fans specifically of Taxi, though, you might not know about CBS DVD releases -- given that things were slightly different when season three was released 4 years ago.
With very few exceptions (NCIS springs to mind, but thatís about it) shows owned and/or released by CBS typically follow a very standard formula for their releases. As is the case here, the packaging is a semi-transparent plastic case, with the artwork being an insert behind your usual plastic sleeve. The artwork for the front cover you can see above. The rear cover features more yellow and black, with the cast sitting on the cab itself. For the interior side of the artwork insert, youíre largely restricted to an episode list and, in the lower half of the right side, a small collage of photos.
All three discs feature a silver matte finish covering most of the artwork space, with the show logo and a list of episodes on the disc etched in. Each disc contains 8 episodes, which for a 24 episode season results in some awfully simple mathematics.
Menu Design and Navigation:
One thing you can usually bet on when Iím review a set from this studio is that the closer to the bottom of this page you get, the more negative Iím going to get. However, in this rare instance I can honestly say I love the menus. There isnít much to behold, but the few menus that exists on each disc are extremely well-designed. Someone at CBS DVD actually has a genuine artistic streak. You get the usual show logo and white/black checkerboard design. In addition -- and this is the part that won me over -- the episode list is designed to resemble a fare schedule like youíd normally find on the side of a taxi in New York. Itís a small visual touch that really impressed me. This design, with a changed background for the menus to turn promos on/off, is applied consistently and is well done. Thereís a lot more that could be here, but at least for once what is here genuinely looks GOOD. And yes, there IS a Play All function.
Video and Audio Quality:
And now weíre back to normal. The video and audio itself arenít bad -- the show looks decent for a series pushing 30. The colors are just slightly askew, but arenít distracting nor abnormal. There is periodic noise and grain, but itís not overwhelming. Audio is a mono -- which for an early 1980s sitcom is par. Itís not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination but itís passable. Chapter stops occur approximately three times per episode, in line with commercial break placement for the era.
Where this section has to get negative is in the area you might have been expected. Both of the CBS DVD disclaimers appear: ďSome episodes may be edited from their original network versionsĒ AND ďMusic has been changed for this home entertainment releaseĒ both appear. The former Iíll address later on, as I need the runtimes to discern any severe edits. What grinds my gears more immediately is the second disclaimer. It ONLY appears when there are music edits. Iíve only very rarely seen music edits that mess with scenes integrity. Due to time constraints and a lack of source materials for comparison, I canít pinpoint the exact edits -- but the presence of disclaimer #2 guarantees something awry.
Jim the Psychic: 24:08
Vienna Waits: 22:54**
Mr. Personalities: 24:22
Jim Joins the Network: 24:04
Louieís Fling: 24:34
Like Father, Like Son: 24:29
Louieís Mom Remarries: 24:38
Of Mice and Tony: 24:30
Louie Goes Too Far: 24:37
I Wanna Be Around: 24:06
Bobby Doesnít Live Here Anymore: 24:33
Nina Loves Alex: 22:55***
Tonyís Lady: 23:53*
Simka Returns: 24:31
Jim and the Kid: 24:35
Take My Ex-Wife, Please: 24:34
The Unkindest Cut: 24:34
Tonyís Comeback: 24:12
Elegant Iggy: 23:42*
The Wedding of Latka and Simka: 24:00
Cooking for Two: 24:20
The Road Not Taken (I): 23:13**
The Road Not Taken (II): 23:33*
**Runtimes denoted with the asterisks denote a number abnormally short for a show from the era. The more asterisks, the more abnormal the runtime and itís HIGHLY likely that these episodes are edited. Generally speaking, the farther away an episode is from 24:30 the more likely itís edited in some way. The two episodes with times between 23:30 and 24:00 may have one or two minor edits but theyíre not as severe as others.
Iím as amazed that thereís a special features section as anyone. However, thereís only one. Each episode features an ďepisodic promo,Ē selectable from the main menu or each episodic submenu. The promos can be played with the corresponding or on their own. These promos appear to be from when the show *first* appeared in syndication. They donít appear to be the original ABC promos given the lack of Ernie Anderson -- but theyíre still quite old.
Total Runtime of special features: 13 minutes & 47 seconds
Itís been ages since Iíve seen this show but Iíve greatly enjoyed it. Itís a great sitcom that deserved a better fate than two cancellations and a five year run -- and itís current syndication obscurity. If there are any station programming heads looking for an entertaining half hour to fill a hole, Taxi would make a nice acquisition for your channel, IMO.
With regards to the DVD: My tolerance for scenes being clipped out is directly proportional to my love for the show, while my allowance for music edits is far shorter but follows a similar pattern. Taxi is a hilarious show, and I want to give this set a good score, but the set is still rather bare-bones and there are clearly things missing from the episodes themselves. Network sitcoms from 1981/1982 just donít clock in at 22 minutes-and-change. There ARE scenes missing.
But even WITH bits and pieces missing, itís still a funny show Iím glad to have had the chance to rediscover. If youíve already got the show on order, then great! If not, you need to evaluate how critical it is that those missing few minutes and musical bits are indeed gone. If itís a deal breaker for you, then thatís that. But for the many more of you on the fence: Things are missing, yes, but thereís still a lot of great TV comedy on this DVD -- and Iíd like to see the final season sooner than 4 years from now.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 3.5/5
Special Features: 0.5/5
Final Score: 3/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 09/20/09
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