Zaslav Drove ‘Cash Cab’ Reboot, Says Producer

Cash Cab starts up again Monday, Dec. 4, on Discovery, five-plus years after the show went off the air. We spoke with Tony Tackaberry of producer Lion Television about Cash Cab. He said Discovery chief David Zaslav was the one pushing to bring it back. Zaslav suggested his friend David Steinberg, a comedian, director and producer, to give the show a celebrity component. In the new version, a celeb “ambushes” the contestant, says Tackaberry, jumping into the cab and helping them answer questions. They include Matthew Perry and Brooke Shields. 

“The range of celebrities works really nicely in the context of the game,” says Tackaberry. 

Tackaberry singles out Gilbert Gottfried as one of the more entertaining celebs. “He just funny as heck all throughout the episode,” says Tackaberry.

Steinberg was guest host on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and did standup on the show many times. Zaslav shared a story about Steinberg at Discovery’s holiday party last week, saying how he used to give satirical sermons on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the ‘60s. Viewers complained, and CBS apparently told the brothers not to let Steinberg do the sermons anymore. He did, and the show was cancelled. 

Tackaberry gives Zaslav credit for bringing back Cash Cab. “It really was him,” he says. 

Ben Bailey hosts again. I asked Tackaberry if, as the producers sought to modernize the show, they ever considered doing the program in an Uber car instead of a cab. He said they’d thought about it but ruled against it. “There’s something still so iconic about yellow cabs in New York City,” he said. 

Tackaberry said the “slightly humble” quality of a taxicab is “so appealing to the show. It’s a cab like any other, except you stand the chance to win a bunch of cash.”

He describes Cash Cab as “not a guilty pleasure—it’s pure pleasure.” He adds that the show is a nice alternative to the anxiety offered up in TV news.

“It’s a little refreshing right now,” Tackaberry says. “It’s a bit of comfort you’re not necessarily getting from the rest of the world.”

It’s on at 10 p.m. Monday. Scott Bakula is the celeb guest in the first episode.   

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.