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Thursday, 2 June 2011


Imagine this day at the office – you’re an undercover cop, just going about your business when you’re shot in the face by a ne’er-do-well. When you wake up, some bastard has reconstructed your face so you look like David Hasselhoff. Then, while you’ll still reeling from that horrible news, they give you a talking car.

So, you’ve got a super intelligent car that can drive itself, but you also have David Hasselhoff’s face. Swings and Roundabouts.

Anyway, that’s the set-up for Knight Rider (1982-1986). The aforementioned bastard was Wilton Knight, founded of FLAG (Foundation for Law and Government) and after he pops his clogs in the pilot episode, it’s up to Irish smoothie Devon Miles to send Michael (Hasselhoff) and KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) on crime-busting missions.

In the days before SatNav, a talking car was something of a novelty, and someone thought it might be a good idea to base a whole TV show on one. But KITT (effeminately voiced by William Daniels, later to become Mr Feany from Boy Meets World) did more than direct you the wrong way off the A11 – he was a crime fighting car! A jet-black Pontiac Trans Am with a red pulsating scanner at the front, KITT was every man’s dream car.

Meanwhile, Michael Knight was every woman’s dream man. Leather jacket, perm, a way with the ladies. That’s why FLAG had to give him a gay car, just to temper his extreme manliness a bit. (KITT and Michael always had some affectionate banter going on in-between missions – they were definitely flirting.)

Wow. So many questions. How does the car drive himself? Could anyone just put the handbrake on and render him useless? What sort of a name is Wilton?
Don’t worry, everything was explained in the opening narration. It went like this:

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 the world of criminals who operate above the law…Michael Knight. A lone crusader in a dangerous world. The world… of the Knight Rider.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? It was a pity then, that every episode pretty much followed the same basic formula of similar 80s shows like Street Hawk, Airwolf and the A-Team.

In Knight Rider, Devon would send Michael to help out a poor community that was being bothered by hoodlums/mobsters/evil business men. A car chase would be shoe-horned in, and Michael would have a fist fight with somebody. (The community would also include at least one attractive twenty something woman for Michael to snog/save from certain death.)

There were some exceptions to the formula though, like when Michael’s evil twin Gareth turned up in a big truck. (Also played by Hasselhoff, he looked exactly the same as Michael but with a moustache – all evil people have moustaches.) And sometimes, if you were lucky, the episode would feature a bit where Michael put KITT into TURBO BOOST mode. This basically meant KITT went a bit faster, but it was very exciting.
The producers obviously had fun trying to get the word ‘Knight’ into as many episode titles as possible. Over four seasons, they included: Knight Moves, Knightmares, Knight in Shining Armour, A Good Knight’s Work, Halloween Knight, Knight of the and Chameleon, Knight of the Rising Sun, Fright Knight and my favourite, Deadly Knightshade (which has nothing whatsoever to do with nightshade, it was just another chance to shoe-horn their favourite pun into a meaningless phrase)

There were some rubbish Nineties versions of Knight Rider – something called Knight Rider 2000 and Team Knight Rider, but they were even more boring that the original and no one liked them. Hasselhoff went on to be a pervy lifeguard before becoming the second worst judge on Britain’s Got Talent. KITT ended up dispensing wise advice to Cory and Tapanga.

But Knight Rider remains fondly remembered by all who saw it. And be honest, who hasn’t shouted ‘Let’s go KITT!’ to their dashboard, pressed the air con button and pretended it’s a TURBO BOOST while no one’s looking?

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