Knight Rider and Knight Rider (2008)


Knight Rider (1982-1986)
Knight Rider (2008-2009)
Type: Revival
Group:10

   So strange. Even before the new Knight Rider was a series I had already written about it. This is actually my second go round on this ride. See, before the new Knight Rider was picked up as a series, NBC first aired a made for TV movie that... but I'm getting way ahead of myself...

   Okay. 1982. One of the biggest hits on TV was the Dukes Of Hazzard. It was the story of a couple southern boys driving around in cool car. It was named the General Lee, it was painted orange and had the Confederate flag painted on its roof... You know, that doesn't exactly read like the description of a cool car. But it was. The show had the Duke boys driving around getting in and out of trouble.

   But NBC came up with a car to trump the General Lee on a show called Knight Rider. Leading to the premiere NBC even aired ads pimping Knight Rider's car as being way cooler than the General Lee. The Knight Industries 2000 was a super car!

   The original Knight Rider opened with a police officer named Michael Long working undercover in Las Vegas. Things go wrong. Michael Long is betrayed by one of the people he is working with. Next thing you know he's out in the desert where he is shot in the face and left for dead. But he's rescued and revived by Knight Industries. They give him facial reconstructive surgery and much to Michael Long's horror he comes out looking like Davide Hasselhoff!

   I kid the Hoff.

   The head of Knight Industries, the rich but dying Wilton Knight, thinks Michael Long will be perfect for his new project. He wants to form a unit to go after criminals who are above the law. Michael Long is officially dead but will be reborn as Michael Knight. He will be the team's point man driving the Knight Industries 2000, KITT for short, a tricked out Trans Am. The body was impervious to almost all damage. Inside, KITT had a computer brain. The dang thing could talk, drive itself, engage in snarky banter with Michael Knight... it was a beautiful thing. Well, beautiful for a cheesy goofy talk car show.

   The intent in the pilot seemed to be that Michael was part of a team but... that never really worked out. He did have a guy named Devon Miles who every week would give him his missions. And they kept trying to bring in tech/mechanic characters but they never lasted. In the end the show was mainly about Hasselhoff and the car.

   Knight Rider had a good run. Even after cancellation it was the show that would not stay dead. People kept trying to revive it. In the 90s there were two made for TV movies that were really pilots to get the show back on the air: Knight Rider 2000 and Knight Rider 2010. Neither went to series. Then in 1997 it came back in the form of the syndicated series Team Knight Rider. That show had a bunch of talking vehicles.

   Cut to 2008. Two different Knight Rider projects were in development, one a feature film, the other a proposed new TV series. Then a crappy break for TV viewers helped spark a little magic for the TV project. There was a writer's strike. Very quickly new content on the TV dial was drying up. But... they had that script for the Knight Rider pilot movie. Hey, let's shoot that baby and get it on the air. With most talk about TV being about what wasn't going to be on suddenly there was talk about something that WOULD be on. And the idea of bringing back a cheesy 80s classic was a draw. I mean, even if it sucked it might be fun to see how bad it sucked.

   So even before there was a series there was yet another Knight Rider TV movie/pilot. This time the people behind the scenes were also the folks behind the NBC drama Las Vegas, which probably explains why part of the movie's action was set at The Montecito Hotel and Casino, the fictional locale of Las Vegas. The new Knight Rider was doing crossovers before it was even a show! Kind of weird that both the new and original shows started off in Vegas.

   The new Knight Rider followed former military man Mike Tracer as he too became involved with Knight Industries. His mother and childhood friend ended up in jeopardy. Mike ended up, wonder of wonders, driving around in a tricked out car named KITT. Not the same KITT. Oh no. This was the Knight Industries 3000. And instead of a Trans Am, this KITT was a Mustang. Where the original KITT was voiced by the persnickety sounding William Daniels the new KITT was inexplicably voiced by movie star Val Kilmer. But there were more differences. A computerized talking car didn't seem to be enough. By the time of this show a lot of cars had computer components, talking GPS guidance... Still, for me, that would actually still be enough. This KITT could actually transform! It could turn into a battle vehicle, a truck, it could instantly paint itself a different color... The pilot film even featured a cameo at the end by the man himself, the Hoff, as Michael Knight. See, Mike Tracer discovered that Michael Knight was actually his dad!

   The movie did big numbers. Big enough for NBC to turn it into a series. Not that they could do that right away. Writers strike and all. So the series had to wait for the fall meaning it couldn't ride the momentum generated by the movie. Oh well.

   The series actually seemed to be closer to the concept set out in the original 1982 Knight Rider pilot. It wasn't just about Mike and his car. There was a huge supporting cast. Tech guys and girls, corporate scientists and muckity mucks. And while each episode was a self-contained story, there were running plots. Seems Mike Tracer has a hole in his memory about some of his military service. And it also seemed that someone at Knight Industries might be conspiring to hide details of his past from him. Just a little extra background intrigue to spice things up a bit.

   Oh. One more important detail the series added. In the first episode Mike's past almost bit him in the ass. Seemed there was a little too much heat on Mike Tracer. So they shot and "killed" him on TV. That way everyone would believe Mike Tracer was dead. But if Mike Tracer was dead, he would need a new name... Michael Knight.

   Now before I shut up, I have to defend this show a little bit. Just a little. I mean, it's flawed. The digital effects can suck at times. The new green screen shots look more obviously fake than the ones from in the 80s. There is an episode where an EMP pulse generator is blown up via the crappiest digital effect ever. My personal favorite was a street race scene. Michael pulls into the left lane to pass the other car. We cut to a shot inside the car and looking at the road out the back window it's clear Michael is in the right lane, not the left! Okay, digital effects can only be as good as the budget will allow but how hard a detail is it to make sure shot to shot the guy stays in the correct lane. The road out the back of the car is green screened in footage! How hard is it to just FLIP that footage so it looks like he's in the correct lane. I mean, damn!

   But I said I was defending the show. Despite my bitching, in general I don't think the show is terrible. It won't be winning awards but it isn't supposed to be. Some critics slammed the show. Battlestar Galactica was a cheesy 70s show that was revived as a smart, gripping, science fiction drama that commented on the current world situation. Some critics faulted the new Knight Rider for not achieving the same sort of metamorphosis. And that is where I have to defend the show because that is the most crap criticism imaginable. Battlestar Galactica, new or old, is about a group of people having their planets and almost their race annihilated by another attacking race and then being forced to run for their lives. Of COURSE you can take that and spin that into a metaphor about the sufferings and problems of the real world.

   On the other hand, Knight Rider is about a grown man with a talking car that helps him fight crime. See... that just isn't going to easily translate into a gritty adult drama/metaphor. And it shouldn't. If they tried to do that I think it would end up being just horrible. Knight Rider should be a lighter bit of cheese. It's intrinsic to the premise. So, critics, lighten up. On the other hand, you guys working on the show? Cheesy plots are fine but reeeally crappy effects and we-don't-care attention to details aren't cool. I'll defend your right to make cheese but make it goooood cheese.

    In the end though, the excitement people had over the movie faded and the new Knight Rider died after a single season.

Other Knight Rider Crossover Links
Knight Rider and Code Of Vengeance/Dalton's Code Of Vengeance
Knight Rider and Las Vegas
Knight Rider and Team Knight Rider


Other Knight Rider (2008) Crossover Links
Knight Rider (2008) and Las Vegas

Click here to return to main Crossover List

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