Welcome to the hustle and bustle of the New York City streets, where the iconic Sunshine Cab Company provides the backdrop for some of the most memorable moments in sitcom history. In this article, we're diving into the hilariously heartwarming world of the TV show Taxi, shining a spotlight on one particular gem of an episode: Season 2, Episode 5, Wherefore Art Thou, Bobby.
For the uninitiated, Taxi is a workplace sitcom that aired on ABC from 1978 to 1982 and then on NBC from 1982 to 1983. Created by James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis, and Ed Weinberger, the show revolves around the lives of a group of taxi drivers working at the fictional Sunshine Cab Company in New York City. Taxi featured famous actors such as Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway, Marilu Henner, Andy Kaufman, Tony Danza, and Christopher Lloyd.
Wherefore Art Thou, Bobby, always reminds me of a Maya Angelou quote, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated." The pain of losing in front of your haters who rejoice in your failure can sometimes feel worse than the pain of failure itself.
Those working on a passion project know that setbacks and rejections sometimes give you a bleak outlook. It can be even harder to keep trying to achieve your dream when you see others on the same path succeeding where you fail. And yet, I know that many of you, like Bobby Wheeler (Conaway), does in this episode, would still find compassion and strength to help support a stranger with similar dreams of making it big.
In Wherefore Art Thou, Bobby, a disillusioned Bobby, comes to a crossroads in his career. Bobby moonlights as a cab driver while working to become a successful actor. "I didn't get this job because I'm a good actor. I got it because I happened to be a fairly great-looking guy, who even looks better with a tan."
Unfortunately, Wheeler has started to lose hope because he has only found work performing in small commercials. And his most recent offer is a commercial for suntan lotion. The character of Bobby Wheeler probably connected with many who worked on 'Taxi' because of the challenges actors faced trying to get into the television industry during the 1980s, when there were only three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), with few job opportunities.
Despite dealing with his own uncertainties, Bobby becomes an unexpected support system for a fellow dreamer, Steve Jensen (Michael Horton). Steve has just arrived in New York City with the same dreams of becoming a star. A chance encounter brings these two together, and Bobby, the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet in a big city, takes Steve under his wing.
Meet Louie – the head dispatcher at the Sunshine Cab Company, brilliantly and hilariously portrayed by Danny DeVito. Louie has a knack for eavesdropping on the personal lives of the cabbies.
His office isn't just a dispatcher's den; it's a strategic outpost for gathering gossip and, more importantly, delivering razor-sharp commentary when his colleagues are at their lowest. In the great tradition of sitcom antagonists, Louie takes a peculiar delight in making Bobby squirm.
When a cabbie hits a rough patch, you can bet Louie will seize the opportunity to add a sprinkle of misery to their day. While the cabbies and Steve worry about telling Bobby the news, Louie begs to be the messenger.
Traditionally, Alex Reiger (Hirsch) is the one who offers the quotable sage advice and regularly argues with Louie in defense of his friends. However, in this episode, while he and the rest of the gang are there to support Bobby, in the end, it's Bobby who surprises everyone with some wise words.
Bobby's world is turned upside down when he finds out that Steve, the new guy, quickly lands a lead role in an off-Broadway production. While everyone around him is genuinely happy for Steve, Bobby is left feeling convinced that he should quit acting.
Here is the get-off-the-knee Rocky moment I love about sitcoms and the main reason for writing about this episode. Feeling down and rejected, Bobby heads back to work, ready to quit acting and become a full-time taxi driver. Alex and the gang try to cheer him up, telling him not to give up on his dreams. And here comes Louie, making things worse, on the attack, laughing and cracking jokes, making Bobby feel worse.
While his friends are telling him not to quit and Louie is making one more joke, Bobby firmly says 'No' to acting once and for all. In that instant, something clicks inside Bobby; something Louie said transforms Bobby's deflated attitude. What did Louie say? I am telling you, you need to see this episode. Worst case, you block TalkTeaV, best case, you'll love, laugh, and be inspired.
Wheeler stands up and calls out, “Hey Louie can I talk to you for a minute?” He pulls Louie aside and says, “You know, when I came in here today, I got to admit to you I was beaten. But I decided not to quit. I found something, Louie.
I’ve found something that’s going to get me through all of that. I’ve seen a light and it’s far away, but it’s strong, and it’s steady, and it’s going to get me through this, and I’m going to follow that light till the day I die, Louie. You want to know what that light is Louie? That light is you, Louie.
You are my inspiration and I’m going to keep digging and scratching and clawing as long as I know there is a chance that I might succeed, and maybe one day, I might be able to come back in this garage and stuff every laugh you ever had at my expense right down your throat. Thank you, Louie.”
And that fellow TV viewer is how to reignite your dreams while shutting your haters down. I may have spoiled the ending monologue, but there is still more to see. DeVito and Conaway’s expressions during the monologue make the scene work. It’s a funny, must-see moment.
The episode surprises you with a Shakespeare performance and some great comedic moments from the characters played by Andy Kaufman, Tony Danza, and Danny DeVito.
'Wherefore Art Thou, Bobby' was directed by James Burrows, known for his work on popular shows such as Will & Grace, both the original and new Frasier, Mike & Molly, and the iconic Cheers.
It was written by Coach creator Barry Kemp, James L. Brooks, co-creator of The Simpsons; Stan Daniels, who wrote 249 episodes of The Tonight Show; and David Davis, the creative mind behind The Bob Newhart Show and Rhoda.
My takeaway is that we are all David on a journey to slay Goliath, and while on this path, we will come across thresholds. And at these crucial junctures in life, we will find ourselves standing up to haters. A reminder that we all possess the strength to confront any challenge and every adversary.
As always, thanks for making it this far, and if you watch this episode, let me know your takeaway.
Keep it interesting, Stay Channel Surfing!
-Stay Tuned Subscribe Below-