Friday, January 16, 2009

The Cash Cab

By Lars Trodson

The other night I’m watching the ‘Cash Cab’, the entirely lovable, good-natured game show on the Discovery Channel that takes place in a New York City taxicab. A couple of folks get in the cab -- or studio, if you will -- they’re an older lady and a younger man. The guy is wearing big dark shades and is walking with a cane so for a moment I think he’s blind.

He later takes off the shades, and in pretty short order the two people answer three questions wrong so that they have to get out of the cab -- you see, the rule of “Cash Cab” is if you answer three questions incorrectly you get booted out on the sidewalk right then and there.

But these two people were walking with canes -- and they have to leave! But after they get out, the convivial host of the show, Ben Bailey, turns to the camera and says: “Don’t worry folks, we got them another cab.”

Man, oh, man -- really nice. If I was thinking they shouldn’t let those people walk, then a million other people must have thought that, too, but the producers had the heart to realize that. Good for them.

What makes the “Cash Cab” truly unique is that the contestants have no idea, when they enter the cab, they are about to go on a game show. So we see them at the outset pretty much unvarnished. And what is remarkable is the transformation of some of the people as they begin to win a little cash. They become less and less inhibited about the “face” they want the world to see, and more and more themselves as they begin to answer some tough questions correctly. What you see is fun and very sweet. I find game shows garish and strident - but not this one, not at all.

I’ve seen more New York style hipsters get into the cab and accept the invitation to appear on the “Cash Cab” with an air of studied indifference only to, moments later, dissolve into a celebration of high-fives, hoots and hollers, and hugs and kisses, as the cash amounts rack up.

So what you see on the “Cash Cab” - which is very rare on television, if you think about it - is the sight of genuine people having genuine fun.

Read about the show here: