TV Review: Taxicab Confessions

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While no one was paying much attention, HBO's sometimes uncomfortably voyeuristic late-night documentary series "Taxicab Confessions" grew to become a long-term staple of the television landscape.

Come Saturday, a concept that first surfaced in January 1995 from producing brothers Joe and Harry Gantz will trot out its 13th edition when it returns for the third time to the sleazy streets of Manhattan.

The Gantzes again capture the raunchy verbal gymnastics between actual passengers and their goading drivers as the unsuspecting back-seaters let loose for the lipstick-size hidden cameras and undetected microphones in their rigged taxicab. And much as was the case when last the Gantzes visited New York, the focus here is on dirty talk and hardcore admissions as people use the seeming privacy of the cab as their own personal confessional. The effect is at once riveting and discomforting.

The eight segments presented here typically veer toward the sordid and the sensational because it probably wouldn't be nearly as interesting to watch, say, gentlemanly lawyers calmly discussing their civil cases. So we instead get an American woman and her French fiance arguing about the merits of French men and women versus their American counterpart; a crack-addicted street hooker pouring out her heart about her tragic past; a young guy admitting that his bipolar ex-girlfriend was a tigress in bed; a 25-year veteran of Wall Street emoting about the 9/11 attacks; and a middle-age black prostitute demonstrating a surprisingly sunny view of men, life and her chosen profession.

While "Taxicab" remains an intriguing slice of human existence, it's nonetheless difficult to shake the feeling of having just endured a particularly messy mudbath. Yet it endures because, at the end of the day, we're all really just rubbernecking perverts at heart.
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