Nowadays, everybody’s car can talk to them. In fact, it’s no longer considered out of the ordinary to get bossed around by a GPS system. With this in mind, NBC’s made the decision to bring “Knight Rider” back from the dead.
The focus of the original 1980s TV series was not David Hasselhoff, who played protagonist Michael Knight, but his super Pontiac Trans Am nicknamed KITT (short for Knight Industries Two Thousand) voiced by William Daniels (“Boy Meets World”). Chief among KITT’s attributes, which included rocket launchers, impenetrable armor and 300 mph speed, was its artificial intelligence. That allowed the car to become a character rather than just a prop, served as Knight’s partner, giving him advice and even cracking the occasional joke. The formula was apparently successful, because the show maintained a loyal fan base and ran for six seasons.
However, “Knight Rider” ‘s KITT just isn’t as special as it used to be. A talking Trans Am doesn’t have shit on a DeLorean that travels through time (“Back to the Future”) or a Camaro that morphs into a gigantic metallic alien (“Transformers”). “Knight Rider” is outdated, compared with recent trends in the science fiction genre. For this reason, it’s hard to imagine the show surviving today. Yet NBC plans to test this by airing a two-hour movie event based on “Knight Rider” on Sunday.
If nothing else, NBC is killing the “Knight Rider” legacy in hopes of making a quick buck. Based on the previews, the show looks like a half-assed modernization of the original series with a less colorful lead actor (Justin Bruening, “All My Children”) and a more commercially driven KITT (in the form of a 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500). Updating KITT has already caused controversy – the original voiceovers done by Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) needed to be replaced because of his participation in General Motors ads. Val Kilmer (“Batman Forever”) now supplies the voice. What’s even more troubling is the way NBC has advertised the upcoming special; it looks like a two-hour long Ford commercial. NBC’s manner of dealing with the Ford Mustang just goes to show they are approaching the TV special: with an eye on making money rather than a quality product.
Even if the network took a more serious approach to the “Knight Rider” franchise, it’s questionable whether audiences would be truly receptive to the revived concept. While KITT might have seemed cool in the ’80s, there’s nothing truly spectacular about the car by today’s standards. In retrospect, it probably would have been best to leave “Knight Rider” on the shelf rather than damaging its reputation by trying to market it to a generation that’s moved on to bigger and better things.