Third-episode verdict: Knight Rider

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 5

So I’m in something of a quandry here. On the one hand, this is possibly the worst TV programme ever made, although Painkiller Jane is certainly going to give it a run for its money. Watching it makes me feel ill and that’s without the benefit of strobe lighting to give me epileptic seizures.

On the other hand, my wife – who has a pair of what she calls “80s goggles” that are jam-jar thick, apparently, and which she constantly exhorts me to put on, too – thinks the new series of Knight Rider is the best TV series in the world ever.

For my part, I’ll explain my issues with it. As mentioned in my review of the first episode, this is very much a show aimed at teenage boys and is about as intelligent as anything by the scribe behind The Fast and The Furious can expected to be. But every single part of it is excruciating.

For instance, we’re now three episodes in and everyone is being out-acted by Val Kilmer. Who only does a voice-over. And he’s Val Kilmer. Surely that should show signs of problems?

The characters are appalling. The fact that the hero is ex-Rangers (Brits: think the equivalent of our parachute regiment) and yet skinny science ex-girlfriend can claim to “have had the same training” and therefore be able to accompany him on the missions as his equal – and we can believe that – suggests more problems. Given that every plot now involves someone who ‘Mike Traceur’ aka Michael Knight knew in the army and they all look like they’ve been in the army – and he doesn’t – only shows up yet more problems. And the show can’t characterise consistently: one second Mike’s an alpha male with an eye for the ladies, the next he’s embarrassed at the possibility of having to kiss a co-worker.

Skinny science girl and faux-Ranger may bicker like they’re in High School still and have the emotional maturity to match, but they’re far from the worst characters. We have a Latino boss who stands there and acts gruff. For some reason, they’ve decided that having a gay woman in charge in the TV movie wasn’t manly enough so she’s always on missions to Washington whenever she’s needed.

And then there are the tech dweebs. I suppose it’s almost a stroke of genius to have two characters who MST3K the show on-screen as it goes along to pre-empt criticism, but they really are awful. More importantly, they tie into something quite insidious: the lads mag mentality of the show.

Okay, so original Knight Rider is probably to blame for this, but virtually all the female characters are in bikinis the whole time. Male geek is shown to be a complete loser, while female geek is hot, confident, attracted to bad boys, etc. Episode two was a repellent piece of rubbish about how guys have to be alpha dogs, treat women like dirt, etc, if they’re to survive in life (“If you’re not the shark, you’re food”). Episode three had all the boys goofing around with water pistols while the girls are all serious and focused on the job.

I’m not saying this is a piece of agit prop like Wonder Woman, but it does feel like the show is telling the next generation of boys that they’re rubbish compared to the far superior women, who are going to be outclassing them in just about every area of their existence, so they might as well not bother trying to do much more than play games, ogle the women, etc – and women will like that. Fair enough: maybe Knight Rider is trying to usher in the new matriarchy, in which case I for one welcome our new female overlords – if the men on here are the alternatives.

Lastly there are the plots, which are a big problem. They’re just dumb. More to the point, they make KITT the super-car look a bit rubbish. One of the joys of the original show was its Reaganite message that “technology is brilliant and can overcome all problems”. Now, thanks to advice given to the producers by Microsoft, KITT seems to be in trouble at almost every opportunity. It’s like they’re softening us up for the sequel to Windows Vista.

Overall then, until My Own Worst Enemy arrives, we’ve got the obvious stinker of the season, but I suspect it’ll lurch on for a while. To be avoided if possible if you don’t have 80s goggles.


  • 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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