Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a
man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on
a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the
helpless, the powerless in a world of criminals who
operate above the law…"
this policeman gets shot in the face, right. Gets left
for dead and all that. Anyway, for reasons best known to
himself, dying millionaire Wilton Knight saves the dying
cop, one Michael Long, nurses him back to health, gives
him plastic surgery, puffy hair, and a new name. Rather
than attempt to return to society, or bother informing
his loved ones that he’s fine after all and that no,
he isn’t dead or anything, the rescued cop – now
known as Michael Knight, of course – doesn’t protest
when he’s told that for the rest of his life he’ll
be an unlicensed crimefighter, equipped with a
condescending talking car.
know, as premises for TV action shows go, Knight Rider
was really shit. You’ve got to wonder why they even
bothered with that “shadowy flight” voice-over at
the beginning of every episode. Knight Rider was no more
“shadowy” or “dangerous” than The Muppet Show
was “pornographic” and “amoral”. And as for
Michael Knight being a “young loner”… you don’t
hire Germany’s favourite pop sensation David
Hasslehoff to play “loners”. For better or worse,
you hire David Hasslehoff to be… David Hasslehoff. The
man offers about as much subtlety as a half-naked
Mexican squashing his genitals against the camera during
a live Royal Wedding broadcast.
to legend, Knight Rider was the brainchild of NBC
executive Brandon Tartikoff (alas, not a made-up name).
During a casual chat with a colleague, Tarty-cough had
made a joke about the lack of acting abilities possessed
by the leading men of most action shows, who were
usually employed to look good and little more.
Tar-tie-cuff had jokingly suggested a show entitled
“The Man Of Six Words”, which featured a central
character who uttered – yes - a mere six words per
episode. Any other dialogue could be delivered by the
hero’s car. Unfortunately, when Tarka-The-Ott’s idea
was green-lit, as stupid ideas often are, star
Hasslehoff was too much of an egotist to know when the
shut-up. The show was developed by US tat-king Glen A.
Larson, whose resume reads like a what’s-what in bad
genre television. The Hardy Boys Mysteries, Buck Rogers
In The 25th Century, Manimal, Magnum PI,
Automan, The Fall Guy, Galactica 1980… Nevertheless,
Larson once again tapped into the zeitgeist, and Knight
Rider was another hit, particularly among the “brain
dead” and “clinically stupid” demographics.
with the Knight Industries Two Thousand – or “K.I.T.T.”,
the world’s first homosexual talking car (reportedly,
a runner once burst into K.I.T.T.’s garage to find him
blowing Herbie’s exhaust pipe) – Hasslehoff was
often mercifully overshadowed by his effeminate
automobile. As he was by his human co-stars, Edward
Mulhare, as his refined boss Miles, Bonnie and April,
two identikit “glamorous” assistants, and RC3, a
street-wise mechanic whose ill-advised appearance in the
show’s fourth season helped speed it towards an early
the best episodes in the series were those which more or
less dispensed with the human characters, and pitted
K.I.T.T. against other talking vehicles. Alas, there
were but two, who cropped up several times during the
show’s lifespan: the self-explanatory Goliath, a
talking articulated lorry, and a slightly less
well-named K.A.R.R. (Knight Automated Roving Robot, for
Christ’s sake…) – K.I.T.T.’s evil twin.
plots of each episode were typical of most
youth-orientated US action shows of the time, and
typically began with evil industrialists terrorising a
small town, or cussing some attractive young girl.
Michael and K.I.T.T. would be summoned to their roving
HQ – a big lorry parked in a southern Californian
layby somewhere – and delivered their mission
objectives. Each episode would feature each of the
following elements at some point: a swarthy immigrant
walloping K.I.T.T.’s indestructible chassis with a
pipe; K.I.T.T. driving on two wheels; K.I.T.T. driving
himself while Michael climbs out of the window; K.I.T.T.
pulling up alongside some women in bikinis, and the
women in bikinis nodding in awe; a sequence of poor
continuity in which Michael would change his outfit
twice during the course of a conversation with K.I.T.T.;
Michael being thrown into jail by crooked cops; Michael
saying into his watch radio “K.I.T.T., I need you,
buddy.”. Each episode would also allow K.I.T.T. to
have the final word. Inevitably it would end with a
sequence featuring the principle cast inside the big
lorry base thing, Michael propped on K.I.T.T.’s
bonnet, and some sort of an exchange along the following
All’s well that ends well, Michael.
Yeah, but I won’t be eating sushi for a while! Isn’t
that right, old buddy?
Don’t ask me, Michael – I’m gay.
laughs. Cut to end credits.)
it lasted, Knight Rider was a huge ratings hit. Even
Hasslehoff came out of it well, getting a plum job among
the silicone on Baywatch. As with all hits, there were
attempts to copy the show’s success. Other high-tech
vehicle/loner pairings included Street Hawk (motobike),
Airwolf (helicopter), Blue Thunder (another helicopter)
and Conch Voyager (giant fibre-glass seashell on
somewhat inevitably in 1986 following a steep ratings
slide, possibly instigated by the unwise decision to
transform the car into a convertible, there have
nevertheless been several attempts to revive Knight
Rider’s rapidly blackening corpse. The first came in
1991, in the shape of the stupid TV movie Knight Rider
2000. By-then Baywatch star Hasslehoff reprised his
role, this time assisted by a red talking car (way to go
with those bold format changes!), and was set in the
grim and gritty, crime-ravage futuristic setting of, er,
the year 2000... A few years later it was followed by
another TV movie, Knight Rider 2010. However, the movie
ditched any connection to the original series, and
featured a car which was implanted with the brain of
some dead woman. The only good thing about it being that
the repellently enthusiastic Hasslehoff was nowhere to
be seen. One final attempt to re-establish the franchise
was launched in 1997, with the short-lived Team Knight
Rider. Only loosely associated with the original show,
TKR spread the screen-time thinly across five talking
vehicles and their young, buff pilots.
Rider is gone now. Gone forever. Our one endearing
memory of the show will be our visit to Universal
Studios in 1984. There we endured a forty five minute
wait in order to get a one-on-one with K.I.T.T. himself.
We had the opportunity to ask him anything. We
could’ve asked him to solve the mysteries of the
universe. We could’ve asked why his voice didn’t
sound quite the same as it did on TV. But no. We
squandered possibly the greatest opportunity of our life
up until that point. Here’s how the conversation went:
How are you?
Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Um… uh… yes. Why… uh… why is… it… hot?
Uh… it is hot isn’t it.
Is there anything else you’d like to ask me?