A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in the world of criminals who operate above the law...
Knight Rider was a fairly simple concept show about a modern cowboy with his horse being the coolest of '80s cars, the Pontiac Trans Am. The original series aired on NBC from 1982-1986.
Police officer Michael Long was wounded when he interfered with criminal activities. His face scarred and everyone thinking he is dead, he accepts an offer by an eccentric millionaire to have his identity changed and his face reconstructed. In return he becomes a high-tech vigilante dealing with criminals who operate above the law. The man behind this offer is Wilton Knight, the owner of Knight Industries. Wilton strongly believes that one man (Michael) can make a difference.
Accepting the challenge, Michael Long becomes Michael Knight. To aid him, he is given a car -- and what a car it is! So much horsepower it can't be measured, every electronic device imaginable and then some, impervious to anything short of heavy artillery -- and controlled by an Artificial Intelligence with the voice of William Daniels. The Knight Industries Two Thousand -- "KITT" -- was the real star of the show; David Hasselhoff's Michael was simply a plot device used to give the car something to do and someone to banter with. In fact, according to That Other Wiki, the show was created in response to a perceived lack of leading men who could act, with then NBC president Brandon Tartikoff suggesting that a talking car could fill in the gaps in any leading man's acting abilities.
Backed by the secretive Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG), Michael and KITT pursue a never-ending crusade against, well, just about anybody who seems to be a bad guy that week, defeating them with a turbo boost, a microwave zap, and the durability of a front line heavy battle tank.
For the final season, KITT was given the ability to transform into an armored high-speed mode, and also given a convertible top to showcase Pontiac's new convertible Trans Am. Although the Product Placement is obvious (and the show referred to the car as a Trans Am early on) the brand-name drop was eliminated at the request of Pontiac, as buyers were asking for options that weren't actually available on production models. Thereafter the car was referred to by bystanders simply as a "black T-top."
Few people would argue that the show was intellectual, but it thrived on the Rule of Cool and Hasselhoff's suave performance. Not only that, it was a good family show, essentially aimed towards children yet dressed up as adult fare.
Here's a character sheet for the original series.
The show has been revived several times:
- 1991 with the TV movie Knightrider 2000, which was mostly the same concept but KITT was transferred into a Pontiac Banshee concept car. Despite high ratings it never materialized into a series, probably because the TV movie was set Twenty Minutes Into the Future and a series based on that would have been too expensive.
- 1994 reimagined it as Knight Rider 2010, which was ill received and a radically different premise with a heavy Mad Max theme.
- 1997 had a new television show Team Knight Rider. Lasted a season and had a small fleet of intelligent cars.
Knight Rider 2008
In 2008 a feature-length Pilot Movie aired in February, featuring an assortment of B to C list actors, and a lot of Fords. Fan reaction varied heavily, some feeling it was at worst mediocre with others feeling like it was a total train-wreck. Most felt it was, at the least, more faithful to the feel of the original. Also universally appreciated was ignoring the past attempts at reviving the concept. Ratings were solid though, and NBC ordered it to series, premiering in September. Some fans have nicknamed it KR08 to differentiate from the original Knight Rider.
The new series features the original designer of KITT, Charles Graiman, building a new Knight Industries Three Thousand, this time as a Mustang GT500. Michael Traceur, former Army Ranger and the estranged son of Michael Knight, follows in his father's footsteps, even taking on the name Michael Knight. Michael also has a long history with Graiman's daughter Sarah, who is part of the new team.
The series struggled with its first half-season, with Michael and KITT commissioned as special agents directed by the FBI rather than the "wandering cowboy" angle. NBC has also gone back and forth on how many new episodes it wants. A major Retool was done with episodes 11-12 being a "bridge" to the new concept. Excessive characters were dropped and the show moved back to the "man and his car" formula of the original series. The fandom is still divided on the show's quality, but the retooled episodes were better received.
Unfortunately, the ratings did not improve enough after the retooling (a steady average of 5.5 million viewers), and despite strong international interest and high numbers of video stream viewing and episode downloads, NBC failed to include the show in their official Fall 2009 line-up.
- A-Team Firing
- Adventure Towns
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: KITT vs. KARR.
- Almost-Lethal Weapons
- Arrested for Heroism: In several episodes, efforts to stop a bad guy landed Michael in jail and KITT in police impound.
- Bad Habits: "The Ice Bandits".
- Bash Brothers: About the best you can get when one of the partners is a car.
- Bigger on the Inside: Rather famously, the interior set of FLAG's mobile semi-truck base was far larger then the actual trailer.
- Bilingual Bonus: Perhaps not even intentional, but KARR-E or "Karre" is a very derogative term for a run-down car in German.
- Black Dude Dies First: Michael Long's partner, an African-American named Muncie, is the first person killed in the entire franchise.
- Bloodless Carnage: Sometimes averted in the new series...they tried to keep it to family friendly levels.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Usually averted, as KITT can recognize sayings and sometimes uses them himself, often prefaced by "as they say." But sometimes he does need Michael to point out that a phrase was just a figure of speech.
- Buddy Cop Show: Variation -- vigilante and car.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: On at least one occasion, KITT tried to entertain Michael with pre-programmed jokes. He ended up completely messing them up, which wasn't too surprising ... but as it ended up, it was his badly-told jokes that saved Michael's life.
- Car Meets House
- Car Skiing: KITT has a dashboard function called "Ski Mode" that allows him to do this maneuver.
- Chase Scene: Basically every single episode ever, not surprisingly.
- Chekhov's Gun: KITT's mechanic often installs a new feature in an episode and it usually becomes a lifesaver later in the story.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Michael Jr in KR 08.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Zoe.
(tasting the "blood" from a faked murder) "Tastes like cherry."
- Comm Links: Michael had a wrist communicator that allowed him to not only stay in voice contact with KITT, but also had a camera and scanner function that could feed his car visual and other information.
- Conspicuous CG: A big topic of debate is the quality of the CG used for KI3T's transformations. The new turbo boost is also used this way, probably to save on all the prop cars that get smashed doing this stunt.
- Cool Car: The cool car, second only to the Batmobile, by which all others are measured.
- Cool Garage: The Rook, a semi tractor-trailer truck that KITT can board with it in motion that is fully equipped for servicing the car and has office space for Devon.
- Crying Indian: "KI3T" shows a picture to get Mike to stop littering inside the car.
- Deadpan Snarker: "KI2T"; "KI3T" will get there with time.
- It should be noted that in the Knight Rider 2000 TV movie, after having been shut down and then brought back online years later only to discover that his "body" had been disassembled, KITT was much more snarky and, on several occasions, downright rude. Understandable, really...
- Did Not Do the Research: For the Fan Dumb-- Peter Cullen actually voiced KARR in Knight Rider before he did Optimus Prime's voice in Transformers. Using the same voice. Thus, it's correct that Optimus Prime is more well known than KARR, but incorrect to state that Cullen "just used his Prime voice for KARR" in Knight Rider.
- Driving Into a Truck: The Trope Codifier.
- Eccentric Millionaire: Wilton Knight used his Knight Foundation fortune to fund Michael Knight and FLAG's war on crime. Sound familiar?
- Electronic Speech Impediment: In one episode, KITT's voice becomes abnormally slow and deep as he resists killing Michael despite orders from a villain he's been reprogrammed to obey.
- The End - or Is It?: After apparently being destroyed at the end of episode "KITT vs. KARR" in the original series, in the ending the camera pans over KARR's twisted and burnt wreckage, eventually pausing on a small computer module with still-blinking lights.
- Everybody Owns a Ford: Pontiacs, in the original series; very definitely Fords in the new series.
- The Pilot Movie is practically a commercial for Ford's new Mustang, and in fact had several tie-in ads during the premiere.
- Evil Sounds Deep: KARR, thanks to Peter Cullen, a master of this trope.
- Evil Twin: Five of them: Garth Knight to Michael Knight, KARR to KITT, Goliath to KITT, Devon Miles' masked imposter, and KARR-E to "KI3T".
- Though in both Garthe and KARR's cases its a case of the good ones being mirrors of the evil/morally ambiguous originals.
- Fan Service: Extremely prevalent in the 2008 show. Every episode before the retool includes a gratuitous breast shot.
- Not that Deanna Russo (Sarah Graiman) in a bikini or her underwear is a bad thing, mind you.
- Fantastic Racism: KITT is prejudiced against motorcycles. Not against the rider, against the vehicle. This is played for laughs. During the motocross episode, he takes umbrage at being outmaneuvered by a "two-wheeled tarantula".
- Follow the Leader: The success of the Transformers movie was a major influence on KR 08's pilot movie, and the subsequent show borrowed a lot of design elements (including the transformation style), culminating in bringing Peter Cullen back as the voice of KARR.
- Ironically, the transformation style had previously been attempted in Viper, which was a distant Follow the Leader of the original Knight Rider.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: KITT has one.
- Fun with Acronyms: Knight Industries Two-Thousand: KITT. Knight Automated Roving Robot: KARR. Foundation for Law and Government: FLAG. And several more.
- Girl of the Week
- Heart Drive: KITT's CPU. Without it, his body is just a really souped-up car.
- Heroes-R-Us: The Foundation for Law and Government.
- Idiot Ball: The 2008 series got off to a really bad start. Nearly every episode. They are getting better about it, though.
- Immune to Bullets: For once, it's the heroes, although heavy artillery is worrisome, as is acid.
- KITT in KR 08 is actually more easily damaged then the original, but employs a fast acting, regenerating nano-skin shell that makes it about as tough as the original.
- An Insert
- Insistent Terminology: In the episode where he first appears, KARR refuses to address KITT by name, instead calling him an "inferior production-line copy".
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Michael Jr. Amusingly, his Special Forces tattoo appears to hold the key.
- Legacy Character: Michael and KITT in '08.
- Leitmotif: "White Bird" for Stevie.
- Made of Indestructium: KITT's hull is molecularly bonded with a material called Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000 MBS, which is apparently a material that makes the car arguably tougher than a frontline heavy battle tank. Furthermore, it must be infused with KITT's entire car structure to explain why he is never worried about its integrity after all the jumps he makes.
- Magical Security Cam: Due to heavy reliance on Stock Footage, recordings in the show's universe are often from previous episodes (or even the same episode.) Also, when KITT plays back footage he recorded with his cameras, the angle usually doesn't match up at all with where KITT actually was when the event occurred.
- Magic Plastic Surgery: Averted in KR 08 - the FBI merely fakes Michael Traceur's death, after which he takes on the name Michael Knight.
- Manipulative Bastard: During his second appearance in the original series, KARR effortlessly manipulates the lives of an average joe and his girlfriend to lure in Michael and KITT.
- Mirror Match: KITT and KARR.
- Monster of the Week: Most of the show is done in this format, with very few villains resurfacing for another round.
- Morality Chip: KITT's Obstructive Code of Conduct is the preservation of human life, a leading factor of his friendly personality. KARR lacks this, his compulsion instead being self-preservation- ultimately, at the expense of everything and everyone else. One has to wonder why, if you're designing a car to act as protector to a guy who's intended duty is the protection of those who can't help themselves, would you then make it's primary directive SELF preservation?
- To be fair, Wilton Knight's panicking and immediately deactivating KARR after he ran over traffic cones representing children during a test couldn't have helped KARR's attitude...
- Mr. Exposition: Particularly in episodes where the action takes place inside of a building, KITT rattles off so much exposition about the current situation that he sometimes doesn't even give other people a chance to talk before switching subjects.
- Mugging the Monster: All those random petty crooks who attempt to steal or damage KITT. They generally leave the situation with the crap scared out of them.
- Mundane Utility: One KR 08 episode sees KITT suspended in his maintenance frame and spun around to make the captive inside him talk - essentially functioning as a torture device.
- My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: KITT in both series was pretty well aware of the hormone levels of his driver around certain women.
- No One Could Survive That: Not Quite Dead, KARR returns, despite having been blown to pieces.
- Actually, he returns after plunging off a cliff into the ocean. He's recovered by a couple that find him under the sand on a beach. He was blown up at the end of KITT vs KARR and is never seen again.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: Several of the original series's Turbo Boost shots were done with Matchbox cars. A discerning eye might notice the bright red "KNIGHT 2000" lettering on the sides of the car -- present on licensed merchandise, but not on the show.
- Jossed. They DID use scale models for some stunts, but they were custom-built models roughly in 1/10 scale. Some of them were badly built, but none had the "Knight 2000" lettering.
- Once an Episode: KITT's turbo boost function being used, at least in the original series. It's less a speed boost then a Ramp Jump. Without necessarily having a ramp.
- Overdrive: ("KI2T"'s Super Pursuit Mode, "KI3T"'s Attack Mode)
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: In an episode of the 2008 series, a password was "E". The letter E.
- Plot Induced Stupidity: The new series gives KITT a host of weapons such as tranquilizer darts, missiles, gattling guns and even EMP. These are almost never used when they would actually be useful, and rarely does their lack of use get so much as a Hand Wave.
- Police Are Useless: The local police usually provide no help at all (and sometimes even get in the way), either because they're corrupt or too dangerous to contact (state police and/or the FBI are usually brought in by the end, though).
- Present Company Excluded: In the episode "Deadly Maneuvers".
Michael Knight: Well, these computer things are just a waste of time anyway.
- Psycho Prototype: KARR.
- Put on a Bus: Bonnie in Season 2 of the original.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: Averted with KITT's color scheme. He's a black car with a red scanner, but he's certainly not evil.
- Replacement Goldfish: Michael has shades of this, though he doesn't know it till later; when Wilton Knight selects him to be FLAG's agent and gives him reconstructive surgery, he makes him look exactly like Wilton's estranged son, then serving a life sentence in prison.
- Road Block: Generally exist so they can be turbo boosted over.
- Robot Buddy: I hope you figured it out by now.
- Sapient Steed
- Shout-Out: KITT's scanner was lifted from the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica. Not surprising, however, as both programs were created and produced by Glen A. Larson.
- One episode of the new series took place in Las Vegas. As Mike is pulling in, a girl yells "I'm staying at the Montecito!" This is the setting of sister NBC series Las Vegas (both shows were produced by Gary Scott Thompson). Given that Heroes also spent a lot of time there, this arguably places all three series in the same universe.
- In the 2008 series, the Halloween Episode had Billy dressed as "Captain Jack Harkness, the time-traveling bisexual".
- Slo-Mo Big Air: The Turbo Boost.
- Writers thought Turbo Boost was too campy and eighties for the new series. Fans were NOT happy when the Pilot had zero Turbo Boosts. So the writers put Turbo Boosts back into the new series, despite sticking to their "campy and eighties" argument.
- Stock Footage: To save the expense of spectacular footage, the original series liberally used whatever footage available to substitute. Examples include using the climatic crash of the titular vehicular monster, The Car multiple times, especially for the initial defeat of KARR in "Trust Doesn't Rust" and the canyon flooding visual from the first Christopher Reeve are used in Superman in "Not a Drop to Drink".
- Stock Footage Failure: Speaking of "Trust Doesn't Rust", there's blatantly obvious use of stock footage in the montage in which KARR is helping Tony and Rev commit crimes. The dashboard shown clearly belongs to KITT, and they even use a shot of KITT with stars and stripes on his hood from "Slammin' Sammy's Stunt Show Spectacular"!
- Stupid Crooks: An episode dealing with car theft has a "false alarm" as two crooks attempt to steal the pimped-out K.I.T.T, and quickly prove not to be the professionals Michael is looking for: They're trying to break in using a Philips-head screwdriver instead of a flat one, and this kind of coat hanger.
- Surrounded by Smart People: A given Micheal Knight character is this.
- Take That: A very blatant example occurs in the first season of the original Knight Rider. The episode features a race between cars running on alternative fuel (KITT's liquid hydrogen included), and one of the cars is an orange Dodge Charger, driven by two stereotypical Southern state villagers, and runs on moonshine. Guess which show this is supposed to be. When the race eventually happens, Michael and KITT first Turbo Boost way above that car and barely halfway into the episode, the car blows up and nobody inside survives.
- In an earlier ad before the series began, KITT's specifications are compared to those of a suspiciously similar Dodge Charger, with the tagline "Competition is No Competition".
- They Fight Crime
- "Three Laws"-Compliant: Often played straight, but subverted in Team Knight Rider:
Erica West: Shouldn't you be programmed to happily sacrifice yourselves for the team?
- Tin Man: KITT sometimes claims to have no emotions or personality, despite obviously displaying both and openly talking about his feelings now and again.
- Transformation Sequence: Ahem... "Super Pursuit Mode"? Or, any of the 2008 series.
- Traveling At the Speed of Plot
- Tropes Examined by the Mythbusters: You can drive a car up a ramp into a truck without crashing into the front.
- Undercover As Lovers: In "Knight of the Iguana", Mike and Zoe pretend to be a honeymooning couple. Obviously their hotel room has only one bed.
- Unobtainium: According to the "K.I.T.T. Kit" blueprints -- a mail-in promotional deal for one of the later seasons of the Hasselhoff series -- the car's nigh-indestructible shell was made of "Tri-Helical MBS (Plasteel 1000)".
- Vanity License Plate: KITT's tags read KNIGHT. "KI3T"'s changes as part of his shapeshifting, but its default tag reads "KR".
- KARR's in the original series read "KARR", which was used to confirm its identity in "KITT vs KARR".
- Vehicular Sabotage: In one episode, someone tries to ruin an alternative fuel race by sabotaging the vehicles. In another episode, the villain siphons gas from a stunt car in order to sabotage the show (the same villain tries to tamper with KITT with much less success).
- Video Phone: KITT was equipped with one.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Michael and Devon. Michael and KITT also have this dynamic from time to time.
- Viva Las Vegas In the episode "Knight of the Zodiac" from the new series, Mike goes to bust a money laundering operation in Vegas, while KITT poses as a prize car in a casino and Billy hooks up with a girl he meets at a hotel bar.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: KITT again. In the 2008 series, everyone other than KITT and Michael share this role, even though KITT can do it himself making the rest of the cast pretty much redundant.
- Weaponized Car: The old KITT had lasers and occasionally other systems that he tended to use for defense or minor attacks on key points. The new KITT, to emphasize just how more Badass he is, is armed with a laser, rocket launchers and three miniguns, which typically aren't used when they would actually be useful.
- The vehicles of Team Knight Rider were armed to the teeth, given the missions they were assigned. Especially the combined form of Kat and Plato, which had very conspicuous missile launchers.
- Wham! Episode: Season three (original) had the episode "Junkyard Dog" which not only destroyed KITT, but literally disintegrated him to a bare shell and CPU box with a very small chance of recovery. We'd seen him bashed, smashed and even blown up before, but never eaten from the inside. Seeing the state the car was in after being pulled from the acid suggested that there was absolutely no way in hell KITT could possibly have survived. He had, of course, but still.
- The episode "Scent of Roses". First off, Michael nearly leaves the Foundation after one bullet to the gut too many. Then they finish the episode by killing Stevie Mason. If Hasslehoff had gotten his wish to make this the final episode of the series, it would've been one helluva Downer Ending.
- Wrench Wench: "KI2T"'s mechanic Bonnie Barstow (replaced in Season 2 by April Curtis but comes back in Season 3).