Review: Knight Rider 1×1

Not your daddy's Knight Rider

In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, NBC

Knight Rider was one of those shows, back in the early 80s, that everyone of a certain age watched. Only having four channels, no games consoles, DVDs, PCs worth mentioning, etc, might have had something to do with that. But watch it, we did.

The story of one man trying to make a difference, armed only with a leather jacket, some curly hair and an indestructible, super-intelligent, slightly camp, talking car, Knight Rider didn’t so much suck as live down to the expectations of primetime teenager-oriented television of the time.

I think it’s worth bearing that in mind, before anyone waxes too lyrical about the original, because although this new Knight Rider series has the IQ of Nuts magazine crossed with a bucket of KFC, it’s really just as good (or bad) as the original. Although it doesn’t have the Hoff in it yet.

On the heels of NBC’s hit movie, the iconic 1980s television classic comes roaring back to life as a reinvented, updated and super-charged action series showcasing the new KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand). Absolutely the coolest car ever created, KITT is equipped with an "AI" (artificial intelligence) that is capable of hacking almost any system. Its weapons systems match that of a jet fighter, and its body is capable of actually transforming into other vehicles and using sophisticated holographic imagery to elude villains.

Is it any good?
In many ways, it’s really rather awful. It’s no coincidence, for example, that none of the advertising used by NBC to promote the show – or even the title sequence – includes so much of a tiny wee picture of the cast. It’s all about the car, this show, particularly the lovely sponsorship dollars. Which is handy, because if it was relying on the acting skills or charisma of the cast – or heaven forbid, the plots – it would be in serious trouble.

But compared to the campy original, it’s really no worse or better. It’s simply the version du jour. It’s faster paced (but not much faster), has better effects and better action sequences, is stupid and nonsensical, and has Val Kilmer (aka "piece of wood") doing the voice of the new KITT. There’s something that looks remarkably like a story arc building up, even if it is more than a bit daft. And rather than tedious old cattle rustlers and toxic waste dumpers, it’s international intrigue, terrorism and spies that are the villains of the piece this time round. But it’s pretty much what the original Knight Rider would have been had it been made today.

In fact, despite the fact the writer of the Fast and the Furious is behind the series, it’s actually a little less excessive than the TV movie which acted as a backdoor pilot for the show. True, we do have an expanded cast list of geeky technician idiots and hot dismissive women to populate the "bat cave" that now houses KITT; any moment of their atrocious interactions is deeply painful to watch. We also have a ridiculously long and drawn out scene at the beginning where KITT catches fire, forcing the new Michael Knight and his ex-girlfriend to sit in their underwear for hours while uttering soap opera platitudes.

But no threesomes and naked lesbians, which has surely got to be a step up in the taste stakes.

In short, it’s really a show aimed at 16-year-olds, and if you’re expecting that to mean coherent plotting rather than Transformers crossed with Chuck and McG’s Charlie’s Angels, then you were probably quite a bright 16-year-old.

It’s certainly not brilliant and if you’re an adult, you’re probably not going to stay long with this one, unless you’ve filled with an unusually high level of nostalgia hormones. But it’s probably what it needs to be for this day and age, although I can’t help but thinking it really needs something, other than a car that turns into a truck, to be of any real long-term interest.

For the benefit of anyone who didn’t watch it, here are the first ten minutes.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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