TITLE: TAXI - THE FINAL (FIFTH) SEASON
DVD Release Date: December 22, 2009 (CBS DVD)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 9 hours and 31 minutes
Total Runtime of special features: 13 minutes
Audio: English (Mono)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
* Episodic Promos
* Series Promos
Ready to roll once again with the friendly, fun-loving cabbies of the Emmy Award-winning hit sitcom Taxi? The groundbreaking, Emmy-winning sitcom completes its run with this final three disc set. Called one of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time by TV Guide, the fifth and final season of this critically acclaimed comedy garnered an impressive 3 Emmy Awards (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Judd Hirsch; Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series - Carol Kane; and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Christopher Lloyd.) Fueled by the incomparable ensemble talents of Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, and Andy Kaufmann, the final season of the Sunshine Cab Company’s outrageous escapades set new standards of excellence that may not be matched for sheer fun.
Often, as a show winds down its run, the quality of the episodes takes a dive. That’s really not the case here. It’s just a case of the audience having left the show. A network move, from ABC to NBC, didn’t particularly help matters any. One fun bit of trivia for you television history folks: To start the season, the show was paired with a new sitcom on the lineup that year. Viewership for it started abysmally, and the pairing wasn’t to last. But in the beginning, Taxi was partnered with some wacky new show about a bar called...Cheers.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
I’m a huge Christopher Lloyd fan. As a consequence of this I’m going to naturally gravitate to episodes involving him. Two episodes into the season is one of my favorites, “Jim’s Inheritance.” Jim inherits a sizable fortune after his father passes away, but his siblings go to court to have him declared incompetent. I know this is skipping ahead a bit in the review but I wanted to address this now: In the final scene of the episode, Jim discovers that his father left him a tape in a coat pocket. The tape contains a copy of “You are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder. Given that there’s a music replacement disclaimer on the back and that the studio releasing the set is notorious for replacing music, naturally I feared the worst. I’m happy to say...the song is left in. It was certainly a nice surprise to hear the song as I was expecting to hear a generic sound-alike.
Other gems from the season: In “Louie Moves Uptown,” Louie attempts to rent an upscale apartment, but before he can move in he has to pass before a tenant screening committee. The penultimate episode, “A Grand Gesture” sees Jim giving out $1,000 to everyone for the purpose of having them give it to others. I wouldn’t have minded if they’d ended on this episode, because the actual final episode I don’t care for myself. According to production order A Grand Gesture is in fact the last episode. But in airdate order, in which this set is arranged, there’s one final episode: Simka’s Monthlies. After some mood swings related to the title of the episode cause her to cancel some meetings with immigration officials, Simka is threatened with deportation unless she proves her marriage to Latka isn’t a scam. Many shows go out with an exclamation point. Some shows go out with a question mark. Taxi, ladies and gentlemen, went out with a period.
With regards to guest stars: Dick Sargent, best known as one of the Darrens from Bewitched, appears in Jim’s Inheritance. Allyce Beasley, who would go on to appear in one of my favorite shows - Moonlighting - is in part 1 of “Scenskees from a Marriage.” Penny Marshall appears as herself in Louie Moves Uptown. As the two-part clip show “A Taxi Celebration” incorporates clips from throughout the series run several previous guest stars appear, including (but definitely not limited to) Tom Selleck.
Clear plastic case, as is to be expected. Front cover features a group picture of the cast, with the show logo diagonally oriented across the top. Rear cover features several cast members photo-shopped into the taxi with the rest placed beside it -- all of this over a blue background. Various episode stills appear at the bottom. The artwork behind the three discs has details and airdates for all 24 episodes in front of a blue-tinted photograph of New York City. Discs are the usual silver-artwork discs. Show logo at the top, episodes on the discs listed at bottom. 24 episodes total, 3 discs, 8 episodes per disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
Menus are static but well-designed. You get a cast member on the right side, with the logo and season below them. Diagonal yellow/black taxi stripes run along at an angle along the top and bottom. The episode list is presented in the style of a fare schedule similar to what you’d see on a taxi in most major metro areas. It’s really quite well designed. Selecting the episode takes you to a similarly-designed sub-menu with two options: Play Episode or Play with Episodic Promo. A tip to the designers for future sets of other series: You can use this space to talk about the episode a little, or work in series trivia, or any number of things. Just having an extra menu to decide whether to run the promo is a bit much.
Video and Audio Quality:
The show is over 25 years old so if you were expecting to have A+ video you’re going to be disappointed. There is some minor noise present on the set, and in one or two spots you can notice some mild compression blocking, but it’s nothing even remotely significant and if you’ve watched the series on cable or syndication in the last 20 years you’re used to worse. Audio is your basic early-80s mono track. There’s really nothing good or bad to say about it - it’s there, it works, that’s really about all. Chapter stops occur at the end of each act: After the opening titles, after the first act, and after the final act (prior to the opening titles).
Where this section has to get negative is in the area you might have been expected. Both of the CBS DVD disclaimers appear: “Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions” AND “Music has been changed for this home entertainment release” both appear. The former, warning of missing scenes, appears on virtually every DVD set I review from this publisher, and unless there’s a grievous hack job is typically not something I worry about - especially considering I’ve only ever seen the syndication/cable versions, so it’s merely my baseline. The music edits disclaimer is also present. This typically only appears whenever at least one song has been replaced. Because Taxi hasn’t aired in reruns here in several years, I only could recall one song from a scene from memory - the aforementioned Stevie Wonder song in Jim’s Inheritance. As discussed earlier, that song IS included. Anything beyond it I can’t say.
Love Un-American Style: 24:05
Jim’s Inheritance: 24:10
Alex Goes Off the Wagon: 24:09
Scenskees from a Marriage (Part 1): 24:01
Scenskees from a Marriage (Part 2): 24:00
Crime and Punishment: 23:59
Alex the Gofer: 24:05
Louie’s Revenge: 24:07
Travels With My Dad: 24:04
Elaine and the Monk: 23:47
Zena’s Honeymoon: 23:59
Get Me Through the Holidays: 24:10
Louie Moves Uptown: 24:05
Alex’s Old Buddy: 24:10
Sugar Ray Nardo: 23:31
A Taxi Celebration (Part 1): 21:59**
A Taxi Celebration (Part 1): 22:19*
Alex Gets Burned by an Old Flame: 23:54
Louie and the Blind Girl: 23:23
Arnie Meets the Kids: 24:02
Tony’s Baby: 24:02
Jim’s Mario’s: 23:40
A Grand Gesture: 24:05
Simka’s Monthlies: 24:06
**This two-part episode has an abnormally shorter runtime and the video quality is significantly worse than anything presented elsewhere on the set. As the video quality looks eerily similar to the from-syndication promos included on the set, the logical conclusion is for these two shows the syndication prints were used. Why? Don’t know. A couple of other episodes have short runtimes that suggest a missing scene, but they’re otherwise the full episodes. These two appear to be the syndication versions, lock stock and barrel.
For the second consecutive season set there is a special features section! And there’s actually something other than the episodic syndication-era promos for the show, though all 24 of those are included for a total run time of 12:00. The set, on disc 3, also features two...syndication promos for the series as a whole running 30 seconds each. Well, it’s something additional at the very least. Total running time of features: 13 minutes.
It’s been great seeing the show again, and in having now reviewed seasons 4 and 5 it has inspired me to finally get around to purchasing seasons 1-3. It’s a tremendously hysterical show, and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve always been a fan of the various works of Christopher Lloyd in particular, but also Tony Danza and Danny DeVito, so having all three on one show PLUS several other great actors (...and Andy Kaufmann) is a surefire recipe for a great ensemble comedy. I wish the final two season sets could have been released *entirely* without edits, but sometimes those are the realities of the television and DVD businesses, however much we may not like it. Recommend the whole series as a hysterically fun show.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5 (2.5/5 on the two episodes using syndication prints)
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 3.5/5
Special Features: 1/5
Final Score: 3.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 12/30/09
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