Rob McCarthy takes a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist...
When the news broke about Glen A. Larson's recent death it suddenly made me realise just how many of the TV shows that I cherished he'd been responsible for. Battlestar Galactica, The Fall Guy, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Six Million Dollar Man, Magnum P.I., Quincy M.E.... I could go on, and on. Many of them were from before my time, and I discovered them thanks to lazy afternoon repeats, all of them were thoroughly enjoyable.
But one of Larson's creations stands out the most, the coolest show of my childhood and one I have to admit to still watching today and getting an altogether different kick out of - Knight Rider.
Knight Rider had a very 80s premise about it. We have an undercover cop named Michael Long
(David Hasselhoff) who was betrayed and left for dead in the desert. He was rescued by
an eccentric billionaire by the name of Wilton Knight, who nursed Long
back to health and gave him a new face and identity as
"Michael Knight". He also equipped him with a super car with artificial
intelligence named K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two-Thousand), and together they fought crime as part of the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG). How cool is that?
When I was 5 all I wanted to be when I grew up was Michael Knight. Obviously I assumed the job position would come with my own black high
performance talking sports car.
The great thing about Knight Rider is that it worked on two levels, it was a decent enough action adventure TV show for adults, for its time of course, as well as being just about the most amazing thing on television for children. It was like a live action cartoon, and what young boy couldn't resist the idea of a talking sports car?
David Hasselhoff was just perfect in the leading role. I don't think he would have ever been destined to be a serious actor and admired by his contemporaries for his dramatic skill, so he did the very best with what he had. Although he went on to greater success with Baywatch he'll always be Michael Knight to me. The
supporting cast including Edward Mulhare as Devon Miles, and Patricia McPherson as Bonnie Barstow, perfectly complemented Hasselhoff's unique style. This eclectic gathering of cast members was one of Larson's great strengths - check out Magnum P.I. for more of the same.
Then of course there was K.I.T.T., and if we're honest, as much as
David Hasselhoff would like to think otherwise, that car was the reason
Knight Rider was the huge success it was. Everyone loved K.I.T.T., and it's become such an iconic image of the 1980s. We all instantly know the 1982 black Pontiac Trans
Am with the cool looking red scanner mounted in the front when we see it. Back then the car cost $100,000 to build, money well spent. K.I.T.T.'s voice was provided by William Daniels, he asked to remain uncredited throughout the show's 4 year run on NBC, possibly because he was also starring on rival network CBS in St. Elsewhere.
You may not know this but the guy who spoke the opening narration in every episode of Knight Rider was the same actor who portrayed billionaire Wilton Knight in the pilot episode...
A lot of people dismiss Knight Rider today because of its immense flaws in logic and continuity, along with the cost cutting production techniques (lots of stock footage). I can't argue against those points, just to say that these are just some of the aspects of the series that make it all the more enjoyable to me now as an adult. I'm drawn in by the nostalgia, but I stick around for the unintentional hilarity and the promise of a very fun 45 minutes.
One of my favourite things to do when watching Knight Rider today is to look out for the many different stunt men who doubled for David Hasselhoff. He must have had such a unique look back in 1982 as none of his body doubles appear to be anything like him...
But like many of Larson's shows, none of this mattered. It was pure enjoyment. Perfect end of the week entertainment, and a great way to relax without having to overly think about what was going on. Isn't that what television is all about?