‘Knight Rider’: More Hits than Misses

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There was a lot to get excited about during Knight Rider on NBC–the car was so very cool, the action scenes were suitably tense and things, you know, blew up, and the legacy of the original show was nicely tied up by the end of the two-hour movie.

The retro-kitsch factor was high. As a late twenty-something, I think this is the first remake of a series I can remember actually watching when it aired the first time, instead of in syndication. Somehow, call it a hunch, I’m sensing that the new Knight’s creators are playing off of that factor, too–after the oddly long lead-in (almost five minutes before we see the car) we get two scenes aimed squarely at the Maxim-"reading" audience, both of which would have been at home in later National Lampoon movies. In quick succession we find out that it’s fairly normal for Michael to sleep with two girls in his bed, and then, after a surfing montage/bikini shower scene straight out of the Charlie’s Angels movies, we find out that our FBI agent has hot lesbian one-night stands.

Then, assuming the ad world catnip of twenty- and thirty-something men have been drawn in, we move on to the fun CGI stuff that will probably be Knight’s bread and butter if it becomes a series, as those two memes won’t be mentioned again over the next hour and 10 minutes, nor do they seem to add anything to the plot.

I’m always disappointed when I think I can see the creators’ wheels actually spinning; they were transparently going for titillation and shock here, but anyone tuning into this show with access to cable TV has seen it already.

What I haven’t seen in a long time is a live-action anthropomorphized car. The new KITT, the Knight Industries Three Thousand, a Ford Mustang (as we are bludgeoned-ly reminded at every single commercial break) has moved on from the original’s Two Thousand, a Pontiac Trans Am that was the reason I wanted to grow up and drive a Firebird right up until I realized how boxy 80’s cars were.

We spend a lot of time watching KITT do cool things with special effects, but as much as I liked it, I hope we see less of it if this becomes a series. It could start to become like watching your screen saver, over and over again. I was reminded of how cool the fight scenes were in The Matrix, and how they had become, well, played out by the third movie because the style was replicated so often throughout the entertainment world once the first movie became such a hit. I liked seeing KITT change color and create a spoiler out of molecules and thin air, but I don’t really need to see it again.

The rest what made up Knight Rider–the actors, the dialog, the plot–were all perfectly enjoyable, so I’m going to take a leap and say this will work as a series. The best part is still, definitely, the talking car. I don’t think something could call itself Knight Rider if it wasn’t.

By Liz McKeon