Taxi: Season 1, Episode 6 – “The Great Line”

Written by Earl Pomerantz

Directed by James Burrows

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers, I’d like your permission to marry my wife.”

I may not know much about Taxi, but comments on my previous reviews have clued me in that the character of John is not well-liked by the fanbase and will be gone from the show after the first season. I think that’s a shame, because this episode is all about John, and it is hilarious.

With some encouragement from the other cabbies, he goes up to talk to a woman called Suzanne at a bar, using a pickup line the others have assured him will always break the ice: “Let’s cut the preliminaries: wanna get married?” It breaks the ice, all right, and John and Suzanne head off to have a wonderful evening together . . . then John shows up at the taxi garage three days later, a thousand yard stare on his face, and tells everyone he’s now married.

The sequence where John explains how that pickup line became a running joke between him and Suzanne, a joke they both kept escalating until they were driving off to Maryland to elope, each expecting the other to finally laugh and call the whole thing off, like a horrible game of chicken, only neither of them did . . . that is some top notch sitcom writing and acting. John recounts the whole thing with bewildered horror, like a man who’s just been in a car wreck and keeps seeing the car spinning out of control in his mind.

In many ways, John reminds me of Woody from Cheers. Not quite as stupid, and with the innocent naiveté turned up a notch, but both have a good-hearted, childlike quality about them that makes them seem comically vulnerable in their respective show’s hardscrabble, blue-collar, big city environments. John’s reason for being so terrified of his new marital status is especially adorable and hilarious:

“I know it sounds crazy, but in my mind it’s all connected. You get married, you have kids, you grow old, and then you die. Somehow, to me, if you didn’t get married, you wouldn’t die.”

And when John receives a Dear John letter from Suzanne (read out loud by Alex, whose voice and choice of inflection make even that rib tickler) saying she’ll have the marriage annulled without any fuss, John immediately changes his mind and wants to be married to her with all his heart. He rushes over to find her at her parents’ place, and that’s where we get the comic bonanza of the episode.

Lots of sitcoms give characters eccentric parents. Being overly repressed and WASPy is a particularly popular eccentricity. But Suzanne’s parents are repressed in an incredibly specific way. They explain that Suzanne hasn’t told them anything about what happened with John because, “We’ve always tried to instill in our daughter the good grace to conceal virtually everything from us.” They’re never hostile or unpleasant, but any attempts to communicate honestly with them falter in the face of their stonefaced refusal to even be in the same room as an open and honest conversation. It’s a side-splitting display and a character dynamic I don’t know if I’ve ever seen in a sitcom before, but one that feels very much like something out of real life.

We then get a wrap up to the story where John asks Suzanne to stay married to him. Two virtual strangers getting married like that was crazy, he admits, but since they’re both the sort of crazy people who’d do something like that, they must be perfect for each other! And, after some comical confusion over double negatives, she agrees!

I mentioned in my review of Taxi’s premiere that Alex travelling cross-country to meet his estranged daughter was an odd choice for a first episode. And even though we’re on episode six now, having one of the main characters suddenly get married and stay married is quite a big plot development to throw in so early in the show’s run. If this were a modern series, this would be a sign that the show has no interest in maintaining the status quo and wants to keep the story barreling forward. Given the era Taxi was made in, though, and my aforementioned knowledge that the character of John is not long for this world, I’m guessing this will most likely just be a standalone episode whose events, as major as they might seem, might very well never be mentioned again.

Regardless, this was definitely the funniest episode of Taxi I’ve seen yet, and has me looking forward to what episodes lie ahead.

 

Stray Observations:

  • In a very minor B-plot, a man at the bar the cabbies frequent is a “chug-a-lug” champion, able to down a glass of beer faster than, I’m pretty sure, the laws of gravity say he should be able to, and winning bets against saps who think they can beat him. Louie may be a mostly despicable character, but seeing him underhand his way to victory over the guy was quite satisfying.
  • Alex goes with John when he heads to Suzanne’s parents’ house, and it’s beginning to seem like Alex is the other cabbies’ life coach. Even when a plot has nothing to do with him, he always has to be there to give them moral support, a role he seems to be getting frustrated with here.