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Knight Rider

By Bret Fetzer

"One man can make a difference," intones a dying millionaire--well, one man and a superduper car, backed with millions of dollars! Welcome to the deliciously ridiculous world of Knight Rider, the early '80s TV series that launched the career of David Hasselhoff and his magnificent coif (both later seen in the insanely popular Baywatch).

No one in the Awesome80s had his finger on the pulse of gizmo-crazy adolescent boys like producer Glen Larson, creator of Battlestar Galactica and Manimal. But the peak of Larson's particular genius has to be Knight Rider, the love story of an absurdly handsome man and his absurdly indestructible car.

After being shot in the face, detective Michael Long is revived as Michael Knight (Hasselhoff) and partnered with an indestructible talking car called K.I.T.T. (voiced by William Daniels of St. Elsewhere), a supercharged Trans Am. From the Las Vegas desert to the Louisiana bayou, Michael and K.I.T.T. solve crimes and help the downtrodden with the aid of a multi-million-dollar corporation run by dapper Devon Myles (Edward Mulhare) and mechanic/secretary/nanny April Curtis (Rebecca Holden, who took over from Patricia McPherson for the second season only).

The duo travel around the country solving crimes--basically, it's The Lone Ranger with the car as Silver and Tonto combined. Supported by finicky British executive Devon Myles (Edward Mulhare) and sexy engineer Bonnie Barstow (Patricia McPherson), Knight and K.I.T.T. take on everything from motorcycle gangs to corporate crooks to K.I.T.T.'s own evil twin, K.A.R.R.

Like any good cheese, Knight Rider has only grown more pungent with age. Decked out in alarming '80s fashions (check out that blue Members Only jacket in the pilot), earnestly spouting some of the worst dialogue in the history of television, the absurdly handsome Hasselhoff radiates the unique charisma that's made him a Teutonic cult figure. In addition to the 21 episodes of the first season, Knight Rider: Season One includes a 1991 TV movie, Knight Rider 2000, that tried to launch a revamped series set in the near future (lacking the cheerful touch of creator Glen Larson, the attempt sank into oblivion) and brief interview footage (including Hasselhoff describing when he read the original script: "It was glowing in my hands. This was gold.")

The first season was goofy camp from the start, but the second turned even more giddily ridiculous: K.I.T.T. developed supersensors, telekinesis, and the ability to drive on water; plots included amnesia, super attack helicopters, a desperately needed transplant for a sick girl, and a supremely cheesy evil-twin storyline featuring Garthe Knight, son of the multimillionaire who gave Michael his identity-changing facial surgery, played by Hasselhoff with a mustache, soul patch, and even more luxuriant hair. In one episode, Michael goes "undercover" as the lead singer of a rock band, allowing Hasselhoff to flaunt his beloved-in-Germany vocal stylings. Of special note is an episode featuring Geena Davis (future Oscar-winner for The Accidental Tourist) as the daughter of a cat burglar, perhaps the only episode with a love interest as cartoonishly good-looking as Hasselhoff himself. This is definitive trash television, the kind of empty calories that, for some viewers, are irresistibly tasty. For Knight Rider fans, Season Two is a feast.

Trivia

• Although David Hasselhoff plays both Michael and Garthe Knight in one of the episodes in this season, he is only credited on-screen for playing Michael.
• For this season, Rebecca Holden plays April Curtis, KITT's new technician. She was brought in after Patricia McPherson (Bonnie) pushed the show's writers and producers to give her character more to do, possibly including a romance with Michael. Although April was not unpopular, many fans missed Bonnie and wrote in to ask for the character to return, which she eventually did at the start of the third season.
• The writers were torn between two songs to use for Garthe Knight's theme – "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Gimme Shelter," both by the Rolling Stones. The episode uses "Gimme Shelter".
• When avoiding pursuers, K.I.T.T. rotates its license plate, James Bond style, from KNIGHT to KNI 667.
• The producers toyed with the idea of making K.I.T.T.'s water-driving ability a reoccurring function, but it was dropped due to it proving to costly.

 

Knight Rider on DVD!
Knight Rider is now available on DVD! Get it at Amazon.com!
Season One, Season Two

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Knight Rider? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"One of the great TV shows of the 1980s. The first episode was great, and set the scene for most of the very entertaining episodes. The tendency towards camp humor (exaggerated by the campness of the voice of KITT itself ;) didn't detract from the coolness of the Michael Knight, the car and the gadgets (which the series eventually, and unfortunately, took too far). And how can I forget the car tech, April :D Summary: Every car should have a Turbo Boost button!"

--Mark_F

"I grew up with a facination with cars, thus when Knight Rider came on I was awestruck. Not for the acting (obviously) but solely for the car. My favorite episode is KITT vs KARR, followed by the one where KITT is dunked in acid, yet somehow the faction brings him back to life. Quite possibly the worst detail of the show, behind it's ten angles for every jump sequence or how they brought on the C button (how a Trans Am hatch becomes a convertible is beyond conventional reason), there's the music. there was always a remake of a currently popular song, and just like the acting, it was done poorly. As bad as it was, I'll always love Knight Rider."

--Stan

"I loved the fact that Garth was Michael Knight with hair under his lip and a goatee."

--cpenn/richmond

"Anyone objective will tell you Knight Rider was one of the most preposterous shows in history. Those people won't be reading this commentary, and nor should they. Knight Rider has been, and always will be the single best show in the history of the entire universe. I'm an aussie bloke, but even I have to admit that Hasselhoff had a certain cosmetic quality. Fortunatley for my orientation however, KITT was by far the better looking of the two. To this day, I have never seen a car as beautiful as KITT, and have never come across a show which is more fun to watch. Since then, I have christened every vehicle I have owned KITT, and have generally tried to live by the show's ethos. yes, you may well say "what a sad git", butyou gotta live by something, dont you? Why not this - "One (person) can make a difference".

To paraphrase Debby Harry

"But most of all,

I want that car

I want that car. ""

--Andrew

"KITT (Knight Industries 2000) was the definitive cool car of the Awesome80s. As voiced by William Daniels (St. Elsewhere, Boy Meets World), Michael Knight’s partner in anticrime had all the substance of Herbie the Love Bug, only in a sleeker package. He could provide information in a heartbeat, just as Michael’s associates did at the start of most episodes, except that he did it as the pair of them went along.

Michael, for his part, was almost constantly in that handsome black leather jacket (the better to make the ladies swoon), even when locking horns with the villains. He was completely unafraid to put a female baddie physically down for the count, either.

KR was not entirely escapist fantasy. Michael ("you got it!")often wondered what possessed him to take this line of work. He also ignored regulations for the sole purpose of bringing down a particular offender in secret. Sometimes beating the bad guy meant being the bad guy.

The only significant cast change over its run was when Holden appeared in the second season and McPherson took over from the third season or so forward."

--Anonymous

"A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Knight Rider starred today's hero, tomorrow's car and a smattering of yesterday's dialogue-at least in the first season.

The show grew more human and somehow more preposterous towards the end of it's run, but the writers and producers always knew how to create charming entertainment from far-fetched, but still straightforward plotlines and the audience's unerring desire to see the good guy triumph.

Looking back, the show doesn't really hold up all that badly with all things considered and say what you will about Hasselhoff-I'd almost swear that this is the role he was born for.

Performances from Edward Mulhare and Patricia McPherson lend a strangely resonant credibility to this series as does William Daniels portrayal of the Knight Industries Two-Thousand (K. I. T. T. ).

Less spectacular, but enjoyable episodes include Knights Of The Fast Lane and Nobody Does It Better and Dead Of Knight."

--Anonymous

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: September 26, 1982 - August 8, 1986

Cast: David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, KITT (car was Pontiac Trans-Am; voice was William Daniels), Patricia McPherson, Rebecca Holden

Network: NBC

Genre: Adventure

Theme song

Image courtesy of NBC


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