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Series / Cash Cab

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"There are 13,000 taxicabs on the streets of New York. But only one of them pays you."
Benjamin Bailey, Cash Cab

Game Show debuting on December 5, 2005 in which ordinary New Yorkers get in what appears to be an ordinary taxicab. They are questioned on the way to their destination by driver/host Ben Bailey, and for each question they answer correctly, they get money, but they get a strike for each miss. If they get three strikes, they lose everything and have to get out of the cab.

Contestants get two "shout-out" options: a Street Shout-Out and a Mobile Shout-Out (later replaced by Social Media Shout-Out). The first allows the contestant to call someone from a nearby sidewalk for help and the latter allows the contestant to phone a friend for help. Stopping at a red light results in a "Red Light Challenge," which awards a $250 bonus ($500 in a Double Ride game) for giving all the correct answers in a list or solving a word problem in 30 seconds. Failing the challenge doesn't earn a strike, though. If the contestants successfully get to their destination without getting three strikes, they then have an All or Nothing moment: They can either take the money, or go for a double-or-nothing Video Bonus challenge.

The original UK version (which didn't have the double-or-nothing challenge) visited various cities, but was dropped by ITV1 two episodes into Season 2. In the United States, the show expanded into Chicago starting on Valentine's Day 2011. There is also a Canadian version hosted by Adam Growe; it spent its first few seasons in Toronto, while the fifth season was filmed in Vancouver. Unlike the U.S. version, due to being broadcast on the Canadian version of Discovery Channel, the questions were skewed primarily towards science, technology, and nature. The Russian version of the show was filmed in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and ran from 2005 to 2009. In 2023, AXS TV announced another U.S. revival, Cash Cab Music, which premiered in January 2024 and is hosted by Adam Growe.

But it should be noted that the contestants aren't always just people getting in off the street. About half the time they're "cast" like any other game show, albeit in a different way than the usual. The show's producers talk to them in a pub or somesuch, claiming to be from another reality show; when the contestant(s) get into the cab, supposedly to go to said show, they realize they're actually playing Cash Cab. About half the time, they're actually picked up off the street. (Players are given the option to leave the cab immediately and not play at all, in case it's more important for them to get to their destinations on time than to win money.)

This show provides examples of:

  • All or Nothing: Miss three questions during the ride, and you lose it all plus you're booted out of the cab. Also, the Video Bonus question if the players decide to go for it. However, would getting about 60% of your taxi ride for free be a sufficient Consolation Prize?
  • Anachronism Stew: On the Canadian series, Adam Growe is apparently unaware that Charles Darwin died more than 30 years before the Piltdown Man hoax.
  • Aside Glance: Ben does this several times during the show. Here's one example, where the question was the ink commonly used in temporary tattoos:
    Contestant: I know this!
    Ben: You do?
    Contestant: Hentai!
  • Berserk Button: As mentioned in one stand-up routine, Ben does not deal well with road rage, traffic jams, or jerks who try to deal with traffic jams by repeatedly honking their horns.
    "Located in downtown-" BWAAAAAAAA!
  • Bonus Round: The Video Bonus question, which doubles the players' winnings if they go for it and answer correctly.
  • Bonus Space: The Red Light Challenge. The Canadian version's Vancouver season also added the "Bridge Bonus", doubling the value of any question asked when crossing a bridge. Metro Vancouver has quite a few of them.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Bailey will sometimes greet contestants with a stereotypical New Yawk, East Indian, or Arab accent in order to contribute to the ruse that he is an ordinary taxi driver.
  • Double the Dollars:
    • The question value doubles after the first four (five in the first season), then again after the next four (five).
    • During the first two seasons, questions were worth $25/$50/$100 and Red Light Challenges awarded $250. Some episodes filmed at night (Cash Cab: After Dark) doubled the question values to $50/$100/$200 but left the RLC unchanged. This became the standard payout structure beginning with Season 3.
    • Some contestants are randomly chosen to play a "Double Ride" game, with all values doubled ($100/$200/$400 for questions, and $500 on the RLC).
  • Game Show Host: Ben Bailey, who had to go to taxicab-driving school before he could host — since, you know, he does drive a legitimate taxicab. Beth Melewski hosts/drives the Chicago version, and Adam Growe hosts/drives the Canada version.
    • The host of the UK original, John Moody, was an actually qualified cabbie.
  • Large Ham: Ben will often make silly faces when a contestant is using their mobile Shout-Out and informing their friend that, yes, they're on Cash Cab. Also, "We're at a red light, and that triggers a Red Light CHAL-L-L-L-ENGE!"
  • Lifelines: Called "Shout-Outs". The passengers can call someone on their mobile phone or ask pedestrians for the answer once during the game. It starts to get grating to the viewers and host when the shout outs are continually referred to by name as a Lifeline. In recent seasons of the Canadian version, contestants can also switch out a question later in the game. The Shout-Outs cannot be used during either the Red Light Challenge or the Video Bonus. In the revived version, there's a new "Shout-Out" called "Social Media Shout-Out", where Ben goes live on the Facebook page and lets the Cash Cab fans join in to provide the answer.
  • Product Placement: In the early days, there was "Dial up your mobile shout-out on your Cingular wireless connection". Yes, it was quite subtle.
  • Random Passerby Advice: This can be invoked once by the passenger via Street Shoutout.
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness:
    • The passengers have varying amounts of familiarity with Cash Cab, but at least one player has recognized the eponymous cab before he even got in.
      "...It's the PARTY VAN!"
      "A disco cab!"
    • Clear on the other end of the spectrum, one contestant was so oblivious to what was going on that Ben had to fire off the game-starting party lights three times just to get their attention!
    • Justified in the first season as contestants did not have any idea what they are getting in. In later seasons, some people actually started Squeeing when they realized they just got into the Cash Cab.
  • Reverse Psychology: Quite often, Ben gives an "oooh", "oww", or any negative reactions when the given answer was correct.
  • Title Drop: "You're in the Cash Cab! A TV game show that takes place right here in this taxi."
  • Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": Questions for money, shout-outs for help on these questions etc. but it is in a cab.

"And the Cash Cab rolls on."