I recently noticed that the 1980’s television show Knight Rider is on Netflix Instant. I was about 10 when this show came out, and I loved it, because what wasn’t to love? David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight was cool, wore a leather jacket, had huge hair, solved crimes for pretty ladies and then kissed them, and drove a talking black Pontiac Trans Am named KITT that was made out of SCIENCE. For a little boy, the only thing that could have made Knight Rider any better would have been if Michael Knight had also had a pet dinosaur.
I watched it religiously back then, but I’m sad to say I don’t remember a heck of a lot of specific details about it now. It’s all sort of a vague, shadowy blur of turbo boosts, that vooh-vooh noise KITT makes when it thinks, and the recollection that Michael Knight and KITT both had evil twins at some point. So, I thought I might watch a few episodes to see if it’s actually a decent show, or if I was just a stupid kid.
Season 1, Episode 1: Knight of the Phoenix, Part 1
I’ve watched the opening few minutes of this show twice, and I still can’t tell what’s really going on. There’s Detective Michael Long, his partner (who is disguised as an electrician), a woman stealing secret plans from a casino hotel room, Michael’s boss who is working with Michael and also working with the thief-woman, an old gambler who Michael is protecting from something, and the old gambler’s wife who is working with Michael’s boss and the thief-woman. Everyone follows each other around and talks into wristwatch communicators, then Michael’s partner gets shot in the parking lot by Michael’s boss’s henchman, then Michael gets shot in the face by the old gambler’s wife in the desert. This all happens in about four minutes.
Michael is taken by helicopter to a sprawling mansion, where an old man named Wilton Knight gives Michael a new, surgically altered face, changes his last name to Knight, and has Michael Long declared dead, all without asking Michael’s permission. The plan: to turn Michael Knight into a crime fighter, a man capable of taking down the criminals the law can’t touch, by giving him a Trans Am filled with computers. Michael demonstrates to his new employer, Devon Miles, what a great choice he is for the task by immediately driving the car through a fucking wall.
Wilton Knight dies, Michael Knight puts on a red mock turtleneck and a black leather jacket, and heads out to find the woman who shot him, who is working in– as Devon puts it– “a place called Silicon Valley.” Ooh, sounds futuristic. En route, Michael discovers that his car can talk. The Knight Industries Two Thousand, or KITT, introduces himself, and Michael, rather than being completely amazed by his talking car, is just slightly annoyed. He tells KITT to shut up, drives away, and promptly falls asleep at the wheel. Luckily, KITT can drive himself, though there’s some comical business where Michael has to pretend he’s a deaf man with an injured neck to fool some cops who pull him over (I don’t really feel like explaining it any more than that).
Michael reaches Silicon Valley and visits a restaurant where the woman thief from the casino happens to be hanging out. He tries to slyly get some information from a hot waitress, arousing the suspicions of the thief, who calls the people who shot him, who immediately decide he must be a cop. Smooth, Michael. You’ve got a new name and a new face and yet you’ve been made six minutes after arriving in town. Meanwhile, in the parking lot, a duo of adorably offensive stereotypes spot KITT and excitedly plan to steal him later.
Michael follows the waitress home where he discovers the same people who shot him also killed the waitress’s husband, and she and Michael team up to bring down the whole evil Silicon Valley crew. Michael meets the waitress’s son, Buddy, who says adorable TV kid things, like “Are you gonna marry my Mom?” causing everyone to smile, because kids, they’re such awkward dicks. Michael tries to figure a way to get closer to the people who shot him, and it turns out they’re sponsoring a demolition derby. Hey, that’s convenient, since he has an indestructible car and all. The demolition derby is tomorrow, also convenient, because if it had been, say, yesterday, he’d have to spend 364 days sitting around the waitresses’ shitty apartment, hoping like hell it was an annual event.
That’s the end of the first episode. Something I noticed about Michael Knight that completely escaped me as a kid: he’s ridiculously incompetent. In the space of forty minutes, he gets his face shot off, drives through a wall, falls asleep while driving, and blows his cover. I’ll have to keep an eye on this in future episodes, and see if he continues to be the worst secret detective agent with a talking car ever.
KITT doesn’t do much in this episode, but I remember, as a kid, being in awe of KITT’s digital speedometer. That seemed like the coolest thing back in 1982. I still don’t have a digital speedometer. My odometer is digital, but it’s not really that exciting.