Knight Rider


The Husband:

I wrote that the premiere this NBC action/adventure remake/reimagining was “cheesy, poorly planned, strangely acted and built almost entirely around showing off KITT’s many features,” and that didn’t really change as the season progressed. The quality lessened almost immediately, to the point where the show kind of stopped being a guilty pleasure and started becoming pointless background noise, something to have on Hulu in the corner of your computer screen while you did virtually anything else at the same time.

Michael Knight and his best friend in the whole wide world!

Michael Knight and his best friend in the whole wide world!

Only a few episodes in, the show became somewhat painful to watch, not so much that it was bad or boring, but that it had lost a great deal of its potential in merely a handful of episodes. The worst was when Michael Knight 2.0 and KITT visited Mexico for no real reason other than to get the admittedly hot Deanna Russo into a bikini. The problem wasn’t that the show was base-level, sexist and brainless. Really, that’s its charm and also that of the original. It was simply the question that probably went through everybody’s mind:

How do you screw this idea up?

Come on. It’s a ridiculous hour-long actioner about the relationship between a headstrong man and his virtually invincible, transforming car that can pretty much do anything required by the plot. Give us at least two great car chases an episode, say some techie mumbo jumbo that doesn’t make any logical sense (both shows clearly lacked a technical adviser), have Michael punch a bitch out every now and then, and make some HAL-related jokes in re: KITT’s Val Kilmer-on-downers voice and his inability to grasp human behavior.

I could write this fucking thing in my sleep. In fact, I think I should try that someday. I need to put up or shut up, no?

After the ratings began sinking, Show creator Gary Scott Thompson (an NYU MFA graduate and playwright who also created Las Vegas and the Fast and the Furious franchise) took a good look at the series and then made some major changes. And they were good changes. What bogged down the first several episodes was all the slogging through government tasks and tactics, having Michael track down bombs and take down terrorists Jack Bauer-style in ways incomparable to better shows like 24 and The Unit, all while being yelled at by Bruce Davidson and Yancey Arias. Everything revolved in and around this little station, and way too much time was wasted on serious bullshit instead of the silly that gave the original Hasselhoff vehicle its charm.

So after a short hiatus, KR came back with a not-bad two-parter that not only killed off Davidson and (later) Arias, but also gave Sydney Tamiia Poitier (it’s good to have a unisex name to give to your daughter) career-ending injuries. The cast now down to four (Michael, Sarah and the two tech nerds), the show could finally become what it was always meant to be – a story about a roaming vigilante and his nutbag awesome car going from town-to-town solving people’s problems. That’s it. No government conspiracy hooey, just dumb, quick action.

And so the show improved immensely, so much that I was enjoying myself again. So what if Michael ended up taking down a fight club underneath a rural bar, or helped solve the mystery of a downed plane and a little boy’s knowledge of where a large stash of Bolivian cocaine had been placed (answer: buried quite hastily underneath a very convenient pile of dirt amidst a grassy field), or helped his favorite bar defend itself from millionaires who wanted the valuable minerals in the earth right underneath? It was fun, it was zippy, and it worked.

And it finally regained its sense of humor. Simply behold the final battle between KITT and the villainous KARR, voiced for no real reason by Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen. If this doesn’t make you giggle, we can’t be friends. (TURBO BOOST!)

Awesome, right? And compare that to these original series bits about the very same thing, just with much less of a budget.

This one benefits gloriously from its German dub and bizarre editing choices.

Seems like a good time to spend an hour, no? Well, despite it getting better episode-by-episode – shit, I was even starting to like the incredibly wooden Justin Bruening – it was still forced into another hiatus, and if the show gets renewed, the first five eps will be made out of leftover scripts from this season, which never had anything remotely resembling a season/series finale.

Should NBC renew this show? No. Now that douchebag NBC and douchebag Leno are taking away five full hours of primetime away from other shows, this is not something I would put at the top of the list to save. Not even close. Too bad Lipstick Jungle was officially canceled last week, otherwise I’d put that on the top of the hypothetical list and really get started on a save-the-show campaign. But now that the cast has already dispersed to such other projects as the Witches Of Eastwick series as well as the Gossip Girl spin-off.

But would I like this on another network, like USA or Sci-Fi? (Excuse me, SyFy, the network dedicated to syphilis narratives.) Absolutely. I don’t know how much Ford pays the show to sponsor their brand – and let’s be honest, the show is basically one giant commercial, with honking clown horns and streamers ablaze whenever KITT is in any of its many forms, which inexplicably includes a four-wheel drive truck – but it must cover at least half the goddamn budget. If not, NBC fucked up on that contract.

But if this is the end, I bid you adieu, Knight Rider. You just got cool a little too late. But hey, the Bionic Woman remake didn’t even make it that far. It was a dud for its entire run. And it didn’t have Val Kilmer literally phoning in his role. That was worth many a good laugh.

The Husband:
For those who gave me shit for disliking the pilot of The Mentalist — it gathered a very healthy Nielsen rating of 15.6 million viewers, yet I still think it’s going to have a Bionic Woman collapse by end-of-season if it doesn’t get better quality-wise — I think you’re really going to hate me for the next statement.

Knight Rider didn’t totally suck.

Sure, it was cheesy, poorly planned, strangely acted and built almost entirely around showing off KITT’s many features, but wasn’t the original David Hasselhoff the exact same way?

In the second semester of my sophomore year of college, I had just moved out of Rains Hall to get away from a startlingly racist roommate and shifted my life across my school’s span to some on-campus apartments. In doing so, I got a much cooler roommate, an easy-going, laidback SoCal surfer guy. I know that for a while he considered me “square” — that’s the word he used — but we connected very nicely on two things.
  • Wayne’s World
  • Knight Rider

At that time (not sure if it’s still that way), the Sci-Fi Channel had an airing of this classic cheeseball series every weekday some time between noon and 2 p.m. I can’t remember exactly when, but it definitely fell right around there. Every time we could for a few months, we’d sit in the living room — I had pretty much made the couch my primary sleep area much to the mild annoyance of the other two people in the apartment — and laugh gleefully at this silly show. We’d anticipate the point in each episode when KITT would have to use his oh-so-special JUMP power — which is pretty much the stunt coordinators putting a ramp just out of the camera’s view — and look forward to the episodes featuring the mustachioed Michael Knight doppelganger.

But was it a good show? Absolutely not.

The new incarnation doesn’t have the borderline-surreal charm of the original, but at least it had a sense of dumb fun. I think people’s problem is that it’s on NBC. I too, admittedly, have this problem. Why this show is on the Big 4 while the Peacock has cancelled quality shows like Journeyman and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip is kind of infuriating. But really, if this show was on USA or the Sci-Fi Channel and kept its quality, I think people would consider the show a somewhat solid throwback. It’s all in how you look at things.

Am I defending the show? Not really. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you, but if you’ve got a DVR, a couple friends and a six-to-12 pack of Corona, you could do worse than to watch this show while waiting for your 2 p.m. philosophy course to start.

What happens to you when you watch Knight Rider sober.

What happens to you when you watch Knight Rider sober.