The New Knight Rider
Well, first off, full disclosure: I really don’t remember the original Knight Rider. Like, at all. I remember two things from watching it as a child.
The first, there was an episode where KITT chased a bad guy down the street where I lived. If KITT had turned right instead of left, he would have driven right in front of my house1.
The second, KITT fucking ruled. (Although I wouldn’t learn to say “fucking” until I was 6.) I would look forward to going to Universal Studios, when it was essentially just a studio masquerading as a theme park, because they had KITT there. You could stand in line and get to sit in KITT and talk to him. I don’t imagine they got Mr. Feeny to actually sit there and do the voice for KITT, but I don’t remember ever thinking “That’s not KITT’s voice.” Ah, the innocence of childhood2.
So besides “KITT fucking rules”, I didn’t have any particular expectations when getting into the new Knight Rider. All in all, I liked it. And aside from my initial qualms about the KITT design, apparently he can change his color and design, and there is a particular version of KITT — pure black with a futuristic grille — that I can sit back and say “okay, that fucking rules.”
The story is pretty thin so far. Something about a particular technology that the bad guys want to get their hands on and KITT is meant to protect the good guys from said bad guys. If it weren’t so clear that this were a pilot and not the made-for-TV movie that they pretend it is, I would say the story sucked. Because essentially nothing happened. But since they obviously intend to expand upon it greatly in the forthcoming series, they get a pass — for now.
KITT is voiced by Val Kilmer, an inspired 11th hour replacement for Will Arnett. I really liked the tone Kilmer brought to the voice. It’s dry and mechanical, while still having the wit that I remember loving in the original KITT (though I’m sure I didn’t get half the jokes back then). Given Kilmer’s reputation for being somewhat difficult to work with, I wonder if they will be able to carry him through to the inevitable series.
Like I said, it’s all pretty thin. The leading man and lady do a decent job of it, although the writing could be better (the leading lady’s character apparently just up and dumps her current boyfriend, and their dog, once KITT and the leading man come along, which makes her a lousy whore), but all-in-all it’s promising.
The use of the original theme gave me a thrill when it came up, and the effects work was quite good. I gave Ryan some shit about the abysmal out-the-window compositing seen in the commercials, but apparently NBC’s promotional department put those together themselves. The final effects in the show were much better done, although there were still some green spill problems in a few shots.
There were some cool reveals of KITT’s abilities, although occasionally it got a little gratuitous (did we really need TWO bullet-time shots, on two separate occasions, showing bullets bouncing off KITT as KITT’s body immediately repaired itself?), and I can see KITT quickly becoming Batman’s utility belt where he has a hyper-tech ability for pretty much any occasion. Gratuitous FX shots aside, they handle his abilities deftly and I think they would be able to reveal them to a pretty far extent while still maintaining the suspension of disbelief.
Oh, one last thing. For those wondering if it’s a full reboot or a continuation of the previous series, it’s a continuation. The original KITT got a brief cameo (albeit dismantled), and Hasselhoff made a surprisingly tasteful and restrained cameo as original driver Michael Knight.
All in all a decent start to what I’m sure will be an intriguing series. I like the way they’ve handled it so far, they’ve got me on board for at least a season.
- This occasion was when I first learned about the disconnect between fictional entertainment and reality — I leapt up and ran to the door, hoping to catch a glimpse of KITT down the street. My parents had to explain that most of the things on television happened in the past and were not, in fact, occurring live. ↩
- At this time, their studio tour included a tour through a Battlestar Galactica laser fight, which looking back was pretty impressive considering its time, and a Conan the Barbarian stage show. Considering that I always insisted on watching the Conan show — which consisted of a sweaty, muscular man in a loincloth waving a sword around and fighting a giant snake (paging Dr. Freud) — you’d think my parents might have clued in a little earlier.↩