Oh, how I loved Knight Rider. It was easily my most favourite TV show of the early 1980’s, and the first programme that I watched religiously, which is probably why I still have such fond memories of it.
The pilot episode sets the story, with copy Michael Long being shot in the head and announced dead. Actually he was saved due to a metal plate in his head that deflected the bullet, but which still caused massive facial damage. He was secretly nursed back to health by the Foundation for Law And Government (FLAG), who gave him a new face and a new name – Michael Knight. FLAG was an arm of the Knight Foundation who’s technology division had developed an amazing artificial intelligence that could speak and auto pilot a car (among other things). This technology formed Michael’s new car, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, or KITT for short.
KITT was a black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with all the toys, and the real reason why I tuned in each week. It had the usual James Bond style traits like ejector seats and oil slicks, but also had bullet proof bodywork and glass, could travel at ridiculous speeds and could jump gaps using it’s Turbo Boost feature (which was generally used every episode to leap over something). Coolest thing of all, and completely nicked from Battlestar Galactica (another of creator Glen A. Larson’s shows), was the red flashing light at the front of the car. I think this was supposed to represent some kind of scanner, but it didn’t actually matter, because it looked great.
The average episode consisted of Michael being given a mission by Devon Miles (Edward Mulhare) who was director of FLAG. Most of the time this boiled down to Michael helping the pretty girl defeat the mobsters (much like The A Team), which was fine, because the only reason I watched was to see what cool new feature or great stunt KITT would do this week.
My favourite episodes were the ones involving KARR (the Knight Automated Roving Robot), which was kind of KITT’s brother I guess. KARR was an evil version of KITT, who’s artificial intelligence had decided why should it bother looking out for some human, when it could look after itself much better, thank you very much. Of course, quite how it managed to fill it’s petrol tank I don’t know, but this was conveniently overlooked. Perhaps it had solar panels or something? Anyway, the episodes with KITT vs. KARR were my favourites, because it had two cars that talked to each other! How cool is that?
The other main characters of the show were KITT’s technicians. First there was Bonnie (Patricia McPherson), who was replaced by April (Rebecca Holden), who was then replaced by Bonnie again, after fans petitioned for her return! They operated out of a big black 18 wheeler, which KITT would enter by driving up a ramp whilst the truck was still rolling down the road!
Knight Rider lasted for four seasons, with KITT even becoming a convertible in the last series. There have been several attempts to bring the series back, with a TV movie Knight Rider 2000 starring Hasselhoff, and further film Knight Rider 2010, which had absolutely nothing to do with Knight Rider other than it’s name, and the failed Team Knight Rider which aired in 1997. It was so bad I remember ITV showed one episode and then stopped after that!