Knight Rider pilot episode review

Over the weekend a pilot for the re-imagined Knight Rider screened in the USA. Mark was on call to give us the skinny on yet another 80s TV resurrection

I’ll be honest from the outset. I’m not a ‘Hoff’ fan. So in some respects the prospect of a re-imagined Knight Rider didn’t exactly fill me with wholesale anticipation. All fantasy shows continually flirt with implausibility, but for me Knight Rider seemed to cross that boundary rather too eagerly and without any restraint. And the Hoff, he could make Shakespeare sound like it was aged gourmet Parmesan, which didn’t make any of the events seem any more believable. But hey, that was then, and this is now.

So what’s changed? Very little in some respects. In fact, what really amazed me was how few changes to the formula they’ve allowed themselves. This is the same basic petrol-head premise of a heavily resourced individual operating beyond the law aided by his sentient car, except now it’s a Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang and not the no-longer-made Pontiac Firebird. The Hoff has been replaced by Justin Bruening, who, like his predecessor, is a one time soap star and fashion model.

He can’t act for toffee either but then he’s not the star of the show, it’s the car… stupid!

The modern KITT is nice to look at, but in the pilot show it does relatively little that’s amazing, and all the effects are now digital rather than having a car that actually transforms. Val Kilmer for the voice is an interesting choice, as he’s much less whiny than William Daniels was. And the car’s personality is now a more sensitive AI who’s interested in the physiological wellbeing of his passengers.

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But those minor details aside, what we’ve got here is a polished if almost entirely tedious copy of a twenty five year old TV show. I stand to be corrected, but I think the viewing audience is more sophisticated these days, and given the quality of writing we’re now expecting there has to be more to this. If there is then it’s cleverly hidden in the pilot, because this could have easily been a script for the original show.

Those aspects are up for debate, but other things wrong with this really aren’t. The characters are less than 2D, the performances flat, the stunts perfunctory and the bad guy’s predictably British. When, in the last five minutes, we finally get our held-to-the-end Hoff cameo it’s a relief that it’s all nearly over, though sadly he doesn’t appear in the car!

Frankly the concept here needs dragging to the crusher along with the Hoff, and as slavishly as they’ve reproduced it doesn’t make me think this jalopy has anything left in the tank.

Will it get a full run based on this? Well, based on the initial viewing figures that’s a possibility, but keeping an audience week on week isn’t so easy. I really started to warm to Bionic Woman, but that doesn’t look like it will return from the writers strike, so there are no guarantees here.

Myself, I wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t.