Despite keeping agonized fans waiting due to the '80-'81 season actors' strike, "Taxi" more than made up for the wait by gradually entering the greatest half of its history. It had gone out of the slump weighing it down during the previous season, mainly with New Blood among the writers: rookies Ken Estin & the team of Ian Praiser/Howard Gewirtz (who'd all be promoted to producer for the even-better fourth season); veteran David Lloyd (who copped the writing Emmy 5 years before with his "Chuckles Bites The Dust" episode of Mary Tyler Moore); future "Married With Children" producer Katherine Green; and future "Simpsons" creator Sam Simon.
It was THEIR variety that provided the spice for the latter part of this season.......and the magnificent fourth & fifth seasons, when the series was able to be all it could be. The inspiration, too, must've rubbed off on The Old Guard: writers/producers Glen & Les Charles, and Barry Kemp & Earl Pomerantz.
Among the ALL-TIME CHAMPS among the classics this season are the Charles brothers' "Zen & The Art Of Cab-Driving," in which a couple of Reverend Jim's fares discuss positive thinking enabling one to reach any goal, so Jim decides to become Sunshine's prizewinning cabbie, raking in the loot......all so he can get "ultimate TV," which he proudly displays to his colleagues.
Another GREAT great episode is the series' all-time howler, "Louie Bumps Into An Old Lady." Penned by David Lloyd, it's lethally funny: while driving a pretty new cabbie around, Louie hits an elderly gal, who sues him for a cool million. Alex informs Louie that the lady in question is an notorious scam artist, making Louie scheme his revenge......the only twist (to what otherwise would've been a "cliche-comedy" plot) is that the poor gal REALLY WASN'T FOOLING! A scream.
Also, there's Katherine Green's debut script, "Call Of The Mild," taking its cue from Estin's breakthrough "Alex Jumps Out Of An Airplane" episode of the previous season: it takes place almost ENTIRELY outside the garage. Tony, Bobby, Alex & Jim decide to rough it at an isolated mountain cabin--getting more (less?) than they bargained on: being snowbound & without food during a horrendous blizzard (someone stole all their food which they stupidly left outdoors for lack of a fridge)......they're finally forced to make do with a wandering turkey whom Jim calls "Ernie" ("He LOOKS like an Ernie!"); a reluctant Alex is the designated assassin. The series' unsurpassed expertise at combining comedy with pathos is seen to best advantage during Jim's somber (but still unintentionally humorous) table-prayer.
In "Elaine's Strange Triangle," Tony finds out that the handsome gent whom he thought had winked at Elaine, is really interested in HIM. When Alex is asked to intervene at the young man's favorite hang-out, the hilarity REALLY begins! (This episode copped Emmys for directing & editing; writer Lloyd got nominated but didn't win.)
Ranking just below these all-time greats are those episodes which, in many ways, were what actually made the series so special: episodes with creative story-slants of some sort that were quite engaging, and more than justifying the purchase of any of the "Taxi" complete-season sets. Here, we have "Fathers Of The Bride" where Alex becomes furious when he finds his ex-wife (Louise Lasser) didn't invite him to their daughter's wedding; "Latka's Cookies," written by the Charles brothers, in which Latka dreams of being cookie-king with his grandmother's strange recipe (watch for the cameo from Wally "Famous" Amos himself); and the two-parter "On The Job" (written by Praiser & Gewirtz) in which the cabbies pound the pavement for other jobs when the cab company goes under.