Saturday, 30 May 2009

Friday Night Blog: Knight Rider

So for the last few weeks, viewers of the Sci-Fi channel have been able to catch a couple of new shows, one being Joss Whedon's Dollhouse (more on that when I've actually watched it...), and the other is the new version of Knight Rider.

Knight Rider was a major part of my childhood, watching David Hasselhoff defeating baddies and helping single mothers weekly, with the help of his super-powered Trans Am car, KITT. I loved the show, I wanted KITT (why were the toys all a little bit, well, rubbish?) and just thought it was the bees knees (along with Airwolf of course!

The original show ran for four years from 1982, eventually trailing off into a dire fourth season (Super Pursuit Mode?) before the plug was pulled. The concept flared up a few times over the years (Knight Rider 2000, Knight Rider 2010 and Team Knight Rider) but nothing really caught on.

A new pilot was made and aired last February, featuring a new car, the Knight Industries 3000 (voiced by Val Kilmer), and a new hero, the son of Michael Knight, Mike Traceur (played by Justin Bruening). David Hasselhoff appeared in a cameo, handing the torch onto his son, but looking very creaky! This went down quite well in the US, and prompted a new series to be commissioned.

Some changes were made between the pilot and the series - more action was included, a whole base for KITT was created, taking it away from the "one man can make a difference" of the original, to "one man, one woman, lots of tech people and a couple of shifty feds can make a bit of a difference". KITT was upgraded slightly, and Mike Traceur "died" because a lot of people knew who he was from his black ops days in and after Iraq, and he became, guess what? Michael Knight!

So, is it any good? Well, Bruening is a likeable lead, and is easily supported and matched by his co-star Deanna Russo, who plays Sarah Graiman, nano-technology specialist, daughter of KITT's creator, Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison), and also looks damn fine in a bikini (it's part of one of the plots, OK?!)

The plots are OK - lightweight and fun and mustn't be taken too seriously. If you compare them to some of the original series scripts, then they stand up well. Battlestar Galactica they ain't. Having all the tech people and the feds around the "KITT cave" kind of distract from the original mission. Half the time, when KITT goes wrong, then it's down to the techies to fix him - the original could have done it himself.

And as for KITT himself, well, he's now a Mustang, but he's still pretty cool. The original scanner has been replaced by a double strip, and thankfully they've replaced the "woo-woo" sound it made in the original (it was missing in the pilot). Turbo boost didn't appear in the pilot, but it does in the series. The only trouble with it now is that KITT apparently has to transform himself into "Attack Mode" to do it. This means that he has to "grow" new spoilers, wings, and a great big air intake on his bonnet, bringing horrible echoes of the aforementioned Super Pursuit Mode. With the neon lights, it looks like Westwood has pimped my KITT. It's horrible.

You see, another of KITT's gimmicks is that he's able to transform himself into other cars, using some nano-technology or something. For example, he can change colour or become a Ford F-150 pick-up truck. This is all well, if a bit implausible, but in the first episode of the series, Traceur jumps into the back of KITT in pick-up mode with another man. KITT then transforms himself around them, so that they end up in the front seats of the Mustang-KITT. Hmmm.

All in all, it's quite an enjoyable series. I've read that it gets rebooted halfway through the first series, bringing it back more to the "one man" mission, and then I think it got cancelled. Ho hum. Still, it's quite a fun hour to spend if you want to take your brain off the hook.

And as for the theme music? Desecration is the word that springs to mind...

(Thanks to The Knight Rider Archive for all the info!)

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