Review: Taxi Brooklyn 1×1-1×2 (NBC/TF1)

Meaningless in any language

Taxi Brooklyn

In France: Aired in May on TF1
In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, NBC

Take a look at that title. Go on. Take a look: Taxi Brooklyn. What does that even mean? It’s two words just stuck together, isn’t it?

Indeed, never has an international co-production so obviously signalled both its complete inability to understand an international market, or that it’s really hoping that people will want to watch it if it just sticks random things together. The latter, so far, has been French TV channel’s TF1’s implicit aim with first Jo and then Crossing Lines and now, pretty much explicitly, with Taxi Brooklyn.

So here are the random things stuck together:

  • Luc Besson’s Taxi series, France’s most successful movie franchise ever, the first of which got remade with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon in 2004.
  • Olivier Megaton, director of Taken 2 and Transporter 3
  • French actor Jacky Ido, who you may remember from Inglorious Basterds or even from the first series of Spiral/Engrenages where he played ‘Personne’.
  • Brooklyn
  • A necessity to do everything in English

These aren’t just the pieces of some long-lost jigsaw puzzle sitting at the back of your cupboard – these are the pieces from someone else’s jigsaw that have mysteriously got mixed in with three others you have no recollection of ever even asking for.

Putting it all together was clearly an impossible challenge and the writers therefore obviously decided not to even bother trying to make it look like a show that’s supposed to hang together coherently. The plot – if it can be described as such – is thus utterly ridiculous.

Caitlin “Cat” Sullivan (Chyler Leigh) is a tough cop, so no one wants to partner with her. She’s also a terrible driver, so she gets her driving privileges revoked. How’s she going to solve crimes and do her job on public transport? What a dilemma!

But when she arrests a French taxi driver speed demon, Leo Romba (Ido), who’s been forced at gunpoint to act as a getaway driver in a bank robbery, serendipity has clearly struck. Ido agrees to help her solve the crime – and to drive her around – if she’ll clear his name. And since he was arrested and put in jail back in France so had to enter the US illegally, Sullivan agrees to help him with the US immigration authorities if he’ll continue to drive her around on future cases.

Forced, much? Absolutely. Excitement? Laughs? Not at all.

Because despite Megaton’s presence on the pilot, as well as supporting cast that includes Jennifer Esposito (Samantha Who?, Blue Bloods), Ally Walker (Universal Soldier, Profiler) and José Zúñiga (Law & Order, CSI), the show is unredeemed by excitement comedy, good characters or logic. Zut alors!

Here’s a trailer.

Chyler Leigh stars as hard-as-nails Det. Caitlyn “Cat” Sullivan, a woman hell-bent on finding her father’s killer. After she’s demoted to foot patrol for reckless driving, disobeying orders and personality conflicts, Cat meets taxi driver Leo Romba (Jacky Ido). A highly skilled driver, Leo is a charming French African from Marseille. Realizing Leo lied on his immigration forms, Cat offers him a deal: In exchange for his driving skills and taxi, she will help Leo with his immigration problem. In order to stay out of prison and avoid deportation, Leo agrees to partner with Cat and quickly becomes her personal driver, consultant and friend as they race through the streets of New York solving cases and trying to uncover the mystery behind her father’s murder.

From executive producers Thomas Anargyros, Edouard de Vésinne and Gary Scott-Thompson, “Taxi Brooklyn” is based upon the film “Taxi” written by Luc Besson and is a production of EuropaCorp Television with the participation of TF1.

Is it any good?
The positives column on Taxi Brooklyn’s balance sheet isn’t completely empty, but it’s vastly outweighed by the negatives.

So on the plus side, you have Ido, who’s genial enough and perfectly good in French, if slightly incomprehensible and ineffective in English. Leigh at least dresses like a cop, even if she might get blown away by a strong wind. It’s always good to see Ally Walker. And it’s rare to have a US show where a black illegal immigrant is a hero.

But that’s really me searching for stuff at this point, because the whole thing is just insane, pointless bobbins. They might as well as have made Unicycle Tenerife or Pedlo Death Valley. Because it’s one thing to make a comedy or comedy-drama that’s a bit forced, but ultimately is either funny or exciting; it’s quite another to make a show that’s devoid of any kind of entertainment whatsoever.

The worst problem is that despite Megaton and the hook of the show being exciting car chases, you will have seen pretty much any action movie or TV show that has better, more original, more exciting car chases (except Taken 2 or Transporter 3, now I think about it). But most of the show is people talking about taxis, not driving them. Let’s talk about the best driving routes. Let’s talk about shift changes. Let’s talk about escape routes.

Heaven forbid, though, that we should actually have something exciting happen.

And if there had been any jokes, that might have been ignorable. But there aren’t. Either something’s been lost in the translation or the producers have simply assumed that by sticking an odd couple together, that should be sufficient.

Perhaps it’s because Ido can’t carry a joke in English and they knew that going in. Whatever the reason, they’re not giving him anything funny to say, instead getting him to flirt with Walker, who plays Leigh’s mother, which is supposed to be funny enough. Walker’s certainly playing it funny, but Ido’s amiability makes it seem absolutely innocent.

Leigh is supposed to be getting laughs by having to deal with her ex-husband, who works for the FBI. Except that’s not funny either. It’s just her having to deal with a git.

And so it goes on, through stereotyped “aren’t French people suave and nice?” situation through “she’s a tough cop who doesn’t play by the rules and trusts her gut instinct” situation after another. There’s a dull sub-plot involved the murder of Leigh’s father, although Ido and Leigh’s characters appear to be having a competition to see who can have the most tragic childhood, which somewhat neutralises any element of the murdered dad plot that might have endeared Leigh to the audience. And if you haven’t got the message that you should buy something Windows 8-based, preferably a tablet computer, by the end of the episode, then epic amounts of product-placement money have gone to waste.

Quite what process of ‘magical thinking’ makes the producers think that an entire season of Leigh being driven around in a taxi for official police work is even slightly plausible, I don’t know, and given that even the second episode was like an episode of The Simpsons’ fake Knight Boat – because, yes, if you’re by a dockside and running around through dry docks, it really is that easy for a taxi to navigate all those bends – I can only imagine the show becoming ever more forced over time.

Worth watching if only to wonder what goes through people’s minds when they commission TV shows. And to see a bunch of people who apparently care so little about quality, they can’t even spell the name of the show correctly.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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