Taxicab Confessions may have been a short-lived series on HBO, but it left a huge mark on the realm of reality-TV. One of America’s first reality shows, the Harry and Joe Gantz creation helped propel a genre that would quickly gain popularity and become an obsession for countless viewers. The hidden-camera show paved the way for the confession-based reality TV we see today, even helping to create a reality show category at the Emmy’s. When the show won an Emmy in 1995, it was competing in the “Outstanding Informational Special” category.

Taxicab Confessions revealed much about the sometimes dark, controversial, and even erotic lives of New York’s (and eventually Las Vegas’) taxi passengers… without them knowing, of course. At the time, it was doing what no other show was doing. And it did it in just 19 episodes between 1995 and 2006.

In an interview with MEL Magazine about the complicated run of the HBO series, co-creator and executive producer Joe Gantz explained that he got the idea for Taxicab Confessions while driving a cab in Wisconsin, as a student. After “people watching” customers, he decided to record their conversations.

Joe and his brother Harry had both been interested in the film industry. They shopped their idea around and drew the attention of Warner Telepictures. Executives at the company proposed a show to the brothers about a vigilante cab driver who fashioned himself after Travis Bickle [from Taxi Driver], who went around armed during the L.A. Riots, confronting looters, acting like he was saving people – although, in reality, he was behaving in a dangerous and irresponsible manner. Not wanting to say no to the idea, the brothers agreed, went home and mashed up something a little different: Instead of making it about the cab driver, they focused on the passengers and presented a pitch for Taxicab Confessions.

After shooting rides in both the day and night, they found people more willing to open up and let their feelings come out at night. They pitched their idea to nearly every major network, but HBO was the one that bought it.

Source: The Things