Knight Rider is an American television series that ran from September 26, 1982, to August 8, 1986. The series was broadcast on NBC and starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight
, a kind of modern-day "knight" who drove an advanced smart car with artificial intelligence. Conceived and produced by Glen A. Larson, the show was an instant hit and inspired a sub-genre of high-tech crimefighter series. "I wanted to do The Lone Ranger with a car", Larson said in The Last Great Ride. "Kind of a sci-fi thing, with the soul of a western."
Knight Rider is currently aired in the United States on the NBC Universal cable television channel, Sleuth. In Canada, it airs on Saturday and Sunday on the DejaView network. In the UK, re-runs can be seen on the Satellite, Cable and Digital Terrestrial channel Bravo and Virgin 1 at selected times. In the Middle East the show can be seen on TV Land.
In the pilot episode, police officer Michael Arthur Long (played by Larry Anderson) was betrayed and nearly killed by a gunshot wound to the head by an industrial espionage expert named Tanya Walker (Phyllis Davis). A metal plate in Long's skull, the result of a head injury sustained during the Vietnam War, deflected the round, which still inflicted serious facial damage.
Declared dead to the public, his medical care was taken over by the Foundation for Law And Government (FLAG). This part of the story is shown in the pilot, titled Knight of the Phoenix in syndication. The symbolism in this title is related to Michael's car, a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, the likes of which usually featured a giant decal on the hood depicting the fire bird (the Phoenix). The phoenix traditionally is symbolic of rebirth, and the scene of Long collapsing on the hood foreshadows later events.
FLAG is a private crime-fighting arm of Knight Industries, an organization founded by Wilton Knight, a billionaire philanthropist. In the context of the pilot, Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart) is dying of an undisclosed illness. Given a new face via facial reconstructive surgery, Long is resurrected as Michael Knight (now played by David Hasselhoff). Together with a high-tech automobile called the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), Michael Knight agrees to carry on Wilton Knight's crusade of aiding the powerless. He usually was given mission objectives by the new director of FLAG, Wilton Knight's longtime friend and confidant, Devon Miles
(Edward Mulhare). Michael was selected for his high level of self-defense training, intelligence, law enforcement experience, and his ability and preference to work alone without assistance or back-up.
Michael Knight was a special type of hero, a modern knight who avoided violence whenever possible and generally refrained from using firearms. Although most of Knight's cases were based in Southern California where FLAG was headquartered, the operation was not confined there. He could travel to whatever part of the country where trouble arose; sometimes even crossing borders into Mexico. FLAG also had facilities in Las Vegas and Chicago.The organization also owned an 18-wheeler that served as a mobile office and also offered technical support for KITT
In early literature for the series, the aforementioned metal plate in Michael Long's forehead was also said to be used for Knight to pick up various radiowaves and signals. This was played upon in the several Knight Rider tie-in novels published, but was very seldom used in the actual series itself. One of the only questionable examples of it being utilized is in the first season episode "Trust Doesn't Rust", when Michael suddenly tells KITT to switch to the police frequency, although it is arguable that he could have just noticed local commotion, or been acting on a hunch.
In addition to playing Michael Knight, Hasselhoff also played a double role in the Season Two feature-length episodes Goliath and Goliath Returns, portraying not only Michael Knight but also Wilton's biological son Garthe Knight. At the time of Michael's surgery, Garthe was imprisoned in Africa. Believing that his son would never be seen again, Wilton had Michael's face modeled after Garthe's. In the pilot episode, both Devon Miles and Wilton stated that Michael actually resembled the face of Wilton himself as a young man. The novels written after the series aired described Michael's reconstructed face as based on images of both a young Wilton and Wilton's son. In any event, the Garthe storyline would not go beyond the second season, primarily due to Hasselhoff's request that the doppelgänger villain be ended, due to the time it took to be made up and film both the roles of Michael and Garthe. (In episode #47 of the two part "Knight of the Drones" it is revealed that prior to Michael Long/Knight that FLAG had a prospective "Knight" driver who was murdered; however, this was never mentioned in any other episode).
In the 2008 Knight Rider revival television movie, Michael Knight shows up at the funeral for his son's mother. He introduces himself to his estranged son, Mike Traceur, who asks if he will see Michael again. Michael replies, "I hope so."
KITT, short for "Knight Industries Two Thousand", was for many the real star of the show. The car boasted artificial intelligence of sufficient level to reason, talk (the voice of William Daniels), and deliver sarcastic one-liners to Michael Knight as an equal. KITT could drive himself when Michael was otherwise engaged, keeping in contact via a wrist communicator or "comlink" (a modified LCD AM radio watch). KITT actually was considered two separate machines: the Knight 2000 vehicle and the Knight 2000 microprocessor. According to series creator Glen A. Larson, as quoted from Knight Rider Legacy, "The car is Knight 2000. KITT is the onboard computer. The car is one, and KITT is the nickname for the computer. I never considered the car was named KITT, just the character inside." The two entities were separated briefly throughout the series (refer to the episodes "Soul Survivor", "Junkyard Dog", and "Knight of the Juggernaut.")
KITT's Pontiac Trans Am chassis was reinforced with Wilton Knight's revolutionary Molecular Bonded Shell, which was resistant to most known weapons below heavy artillery. The vehicle's drive train consisted of a turbine engine, capable of accelerating to 300 mph; furthermore, the car had numerous other special abilities, the most notable being a frequently used 'Turbo Boost' for jumping over obstacles. This was a stunt similar to that used by the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard, where the car (assisted by the aid of ramps and/or air compression) would leap into the air, usually in order to clear a hazardous obstacle. (In fact, the same stunt coordinator, Jack Gill, was involved in both series.) In Give Me Liberty... or Give Me Death, where an alternative-fuel race takes place, a race car bearing a strong resemblance to the General Lee is racing with KITT. Though the car is missing the trademark Confederate flag and does not sport racing number 01, it is the same color and sports the same wheels as the General Lee. As an aside, its fuel is moonshine, in comparison with KITT's liquid hydrogen. KITT also had many other varied uses - perhaps the most impressive of these was his ability to print money as seen in Episode Four of the second season.
An early version of KITT, before the familiar scanner was completed, had a mock up scanner located at the extreme front of the bumper rather than at the front of the hood. It did not have the regular red light, being made instead of reflective material. The front end of this early model was significantly different from the usual model. It can be seen in a handful of very brief scenes in the pilot episode, and in stock footage used in some other first season episodes. (It can also be seen in a couple of shots of the first season opening sequence, and is prominent in the pre-closing credits sequence used for much of the season.)
KITT's speech is reflected in a 'voice modulator' located above the customized steering wheel. During the first season, the modulator was a red blinking square that lit up in time with KITT's voice. Midway through the first season, in the episode "Hearts of Stone", the voice modulator was updated to reflect that of "evil twin" KARR. KITT's voice modulator was now three red lines that rose and sank from the center of the screen as he spoke. This look was retained for the remainder of the run, although subtly tweaked in the third and fourth season. (The original blinking red square remained in the opening credits sequence for the remainder of the first season, and could still often be seen as stock footage in episodes of the first two seasons.) The very early mock ups of KITT's dashboard showed the original flashing square to have 'Knight 2000' written on the display in LCD type font (this square was also a blank white color in some shots), leading to breaks in continuity, sometimes even within the same scene, as the details of the display varied between shots.
KITT was actually the second smart car developed by FLAG. The first, dubbed KARR (the Knight Automated Roving Robot), was programmed for self-preservation and not the directive for the preservation of human life (see Three Laws of Robotics) that KITT possessed. KARR fell into the wrong hands and served as KITT's mis-programmed evil twin during two episodes, "Trust Doesn't Rust", and "K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R.".
Several episodes - particularly during the second season - saw new technical gadgets added to KITT's repertoire, which were usually subsequently used to rescue Michael and KITT from some perilous situation in the same episode (and more often than not were never seen again). These features included a new coating that allowed KITT to drive through fire (in the episode "Ring of Fire"), special spiked tires for added traction ("Speed Demons"), and the ability to drive on water ("Return to Cadiz"). The last of these functions was actually planned for use as a recurring feature of KITT's, but the special effects process, which was done using models, was found to be so awkward and time-consuming that the ability was never utilized again.
The third season opener, "Knight of the Drones", saw the newly returned Bonnie rebuild KITT after he had been badly damaged by a missile. The dash display was revamped (with KITT's voice modulator slightly tweaked to be slightly taller). With this rebuild, several new features were added, such as the ability to generate an electrical charge; some of these new features continued to be used, others were seldom if ever seen again.
KITT received his most extreme modification at the start of the shows' final season. During a mission in Chicago ("Knight of the Juggernaut"), KITT's Molecular Bonded Shell was neutralized by a passing street cleaner which actually sprayed a solvent designed to remove the MBS. His body was then severely damaged by an enemy battering ram. He was rebuilt in a miraculous 24 hours, with the help of Bonnie, RC3 (Peter Parros) and his streetwise mechanic friends.
Because they were not initially able to restore the car's Molecular Bonded Shell, the mechanics added a "Super Pursuit Mode", giving KITT a 40 percent increase in speed to in excess of 300 mph (483 km/h). Super Pursuit Mode was made possible by retractable airfoils and jet boosters. An "Emergency Braking System" was also installed to decelerate KITT from these high speeds, using three large air flaps. (The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren actually uses some of this braking flap technology today). As a special "gift" to Michael, the street mechanics added a button marked 'C', which when pressed, brought KITT's top down and turned him into a convertible. The effects for the extra functions, designed by George Barris, cost $250,000 to create.
The car (actually, a set of them) is a customization of a stock 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Rumor has it that the first one off the Pontiac/GM line was sent directly to Universal. The shows success resulted in the auto manufacturer's being overwhelmed by requests for the "Knight 2000" version of the car (which did not actually exist). The major exterior difference from a stock Trans Am is the nose, which was redesigned in order to accommodate a cylon-like red scanner. (It is notable that in most regions of the USA flashing/strobing red lights are reserved for emergency vehicles and are illegal for street use.) In the pilot "Knight of the Phoenix", there are a few noticeable scenes where the nose is a mock up. The car itself still has a worldwide scene with passionate fans, and replicas are known to exist in an unusually high number, at various levels of fidelity.
When asked about KITT's whereabouts, David Hasselhoff indicates that, like Roy Rogers did to Trigger, KITT is now stuffed and mounted in Hasselhoff's living room. In actual fact, Hasselhoff commissioned his own version of the car which sold to a private collection (the Nelson Collection) in 1992. Today one of the original KITTs (complete with the original 'red square' voice display) can be seen at the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, Cumbria, England. The car is in a state of slight disrepair likely due to its age.
- From Wikipedia