Knight Rider - Legendary TV

One of the most iconic TV shows of all time which launched David Hasselhoff's unbelievable career.

Jiří Stacho

7/11/20238 min read

"Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of 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 a world of criminals who operate above the law."

This is the intro to my favorite show of all time – Knight Rider. A classic piece of television that has stood the test of time. The show is full of action, suspense, and humor. The combination of David Hasselhoff as the lead and K.I.T.T. as the sidekick makes for a dynamic duo that never fails to entertain. The show also has a great message about the power of doing good in the world, and it is one of the few shows from the 80s that is still relevant today. Nowadays all the tv shows and movies are morally ambiguous, the lines between good and evil are blurred. If you’re looking for a light-hearted show with a strong moral compass and is full of action and adventure, than you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better than Knight Rider.

The show was created by Glenn A. Larson and aired on NBC from 1982 to 1986. Glen A. Larson is a television juggernaut who also created Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Magnum P.I., and Battlestar Galactica among others. Knight Rider became a huge hit right off the bat and a cultural phenomenon that withstood the passage of time. Even now, 40 years later, people still know Knight Rider and even those who have never seen it at least recognize the main theme. It is so iconic it’s immortal. Even now when I watch it as an adult I still get goosebumps when the intro starts. Don Peake and Stu Phillips did such an amazing job as composers on this show.

Let’s start with the pilot. It introduces the character Michael Arthur Long, a police detective who is shot in the face and receives a new identity as Michael Knight thanks to billionaire Wilton Knight. Michael is given a new high-tech car named K.I.T.T. – Knight Industries 2000 equipped with advanced capabilities, and artificial intelligence. Michael and K.I.T.T. work together to take down a criminal organization and protect the innocent. Throughout the episode, more of Michael's backstory and the capabilities of K.I.T.T. are both introduced. Michael gradually comes to terms with his new purpose in life and the show then follows him and KITT as they go on missions to help people and fight crime. Action tv shows from the 80’s were done practically because CGI was more expensive back then and the shows looked so much better than today’s fake shows. Incredible car stunts, creative use of miniatures, pure unrestrained fun.

Firstly, let’s talk about KITT. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was absolutely the best car they could have possibly choose. When people think about cars from TV and movies, they always think about one of these three: Batmobile, Back to the Future DeLorean, and KITT. The interior with the cut steering wheel, many lightened buttons, and screens, and of course, the talking signal. But KITT is so much more than just the look. KITT is not a cold, calculated computer that always does everything logically. KITT has a personality and develops said personality over the course of the show. He has flaws much like humans, he can be caring, jealous, vain, and in a few particular instances even afraid. His comradery with Michael progresses very naturally. At first, KITT behaves more like a computer but the more he and Michael bond the more he acts like a human. For example, there’s a moment in an episode where Michael is in jail and KITT informs Devon about it. When Devon is about to tell KITT what he should do, KITT tells him that he’s got it and hangs up on him. Devon is frustrated and admits that Michael’s personality is rubbing of on KITT. It’s a funny scene and it shows how KITT develops over the time he spends with Michael.

One of the keys to the success of the show is the core cast. They play off of each other perfectly. I love David Hasselhoff so much that I’m tempted to make a video focusing solely on him. For now, very briefly, I just say that The Hoff is so charismatic and kinda strange in the way he walks and speaks and reacts to things. He’s also quite tall and when he is fighting he seems very disjointed and clumsy especially when he’s kicking. But the man is so intriguing to watch. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the character. He steals every scene for himself.

Michael Knight is a great protagonist and complex character. He embodies several characteristics that make him relatable to the audience. He is a former police officer who has been betrayed and forced to give up his identity, which adds depth to his persona. He is also a resilient character who is willing to fight against injustice and use his skills and knowledge to help those in need. Additionally, Michael's interactions with KITT add an interesting dynamic to the show, with Michael often having to negotiate with KITT to get the car to do what he needs it to do.

Furthermore, Michael's character develops over the course of the series. Initially, he is a loner who is struggling to come to terms with his unjust past. However, as the series progresses, he becomes more compassionate, develops strong relationships with his colleagues at the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG for short), and gains a deeper understanding of the world around him. He is often put in difficult situations where he must make moral and ethical decisions, adding to his complexity as a character. His struggles with his past and his quest for justice make him a compelling and relatable character.

The show also has a very strong moral compass. Throughout most of the first season, the outro was Michael and K.I.T.T. driving though a road in the desert with Wilton Knight's words of "One man can make a difference Michael." That one statement stayed with me from the very first time I heard it as a small child. I grew up without a good father as a role model, and however corny it may sound, Michael Knight was my male role model. He has a very strong sense of justice, he is smart and resourceful, he doesn’t resort to violence unless the situation requires it. He’s not a boring goody two shoes character, he’s often whining about wanting to go on vacation with KITT but every time they go somewhere, there is someone who needs help, and Michael always helps.

Edward Mulhare plays Devon Miles, Michael’s boss. Edward Mulhare is a fantastic actor who gives this show incredible class and elevates the show in every scene he’s apart of. In the beginning Devon doesn’t like Michael, he considers him irresponsible and not worthy of Wilton Knight’s trust but as they work together on a few cases, they grow to respect each other and care for one another. As the show goes on Devon and Michael’s relationship is very fatherly.

Patricia McPherson plays Bonnie Barstow, an incredibly smart car/computer technician who is a perfect fit to complete the small ensemble. Bonnie cares about KITT almost like he’s her child and she always strongly let’s Michael know her feelings about Michael’s frequent destruction of KITT. Bonnie also considers Michael reckless and she seems to be immune to Michael’s charm. As the first season goes on we see that she is not as immune as she would like to pretend. I think that Michael and Bonnie could have had a solid romantic relationship if the writers, especially in the 80s and 90s weren’t afraid of the main hero being in a stable relationship. They always wanted the hero to be single. While I see that sometimes relationships get boring, they can be portrayed in an entertaining way without the constant annoying will they won’t they. The way I see it it’s more boring when the main hero is single and in each episode he has a new interest because the audience knows there’s no reason to get invested in the character as she will be gone and replaced in the next one. Interestingly, Patricia McPherson actually had the same opinion and pushed for Michael and Bonnie’s relationship really hard. In the episode White Bird, Bonnie reacts very aggressively to learning about Stevie - Michael’s love interest from his previous life as Michael Long. McPherson was actively trying to make the scene as dramatic as possible and the director ordered her to tone it down. Well, nevertheless she persisted. If the scene that’s in the actual episode is toned down I’d love to see the other takes.

The producers didn’t want Michael to be in a relationship and replaced her with Rebecca Holden as April Curtis in season 2. We got no mention or explanation of Bonnie’s absence. April was nice enough but the spark that was between Michael and Bonnie was not there. However, April is not a bad character, she works is a good fit for the team and not even once I found her annoying or anything like that. Season 2 is a very strong season which introduces Garth Knight, the son of Wilton Knight. Garth is so evil and such a disappointment for his father that he gave Michael Long his face. Ouch. David Hasselhoff is clearly enjoying playing Garth and having the Hoff playing two characters simultaneously is unbelievably fun. However, as playing two characters was taking a toll on Hasselhoff, Garth only returns once in the same season and then never again.

Apparently David Hasselhoff was also unhappy about how the producers treated Patricia McPherson and wanted her back. And he got what he and frankly most of the fans wanted, Bonnie returns in season 3 and stays for the rest of the show. However, she is definitely subdued and her interactions with Michael are more akin to siblings. I think that’s the influence and condition of the producers to allow her to come back. It’s very unfortunate because Bonnie was an interesting character in season 1, she shad spark, a strong backbone and the season 3 and 4 version of Bonnie is quiet and mostly uninteresting. Restraining Bonnie is the biggest mistake the creators did in season 3. Apart from that the season is very good and action packed. I’d say the action scenes are more daring. KITT loses his memory and in one episode even gets almost completely destroyed. Season 4 is overall still a very solid season, there are a few excellent episodes, and a few pretty bad ones which didn’t happen in the previous seasons. The pointless addition of Reginald RC3 as a lame attempt to somehow be cool. RC3 has absolutely nothing to add to any story whatsoever and very soon he is just a designated driver. RC3 is the Scrappy-Doo of this show.

Sometime during season 3 the ratings started to drop ever so slightly. The studio and the producers wanted something that would keep the audience for season 4. So the creators came up with super pursuit mode. When I saw KITT transform for the first time I thought it was super cool but as the season went on and in every episode was the obligatory super pursuit mode scene it became less and less impressive, especially considering they used the same transformation montage every time. This was largely due to strained budget for season 4 because the actors are getting paid more each season and with the ratings drop the network cuts its budget. That’s not a good combination. I’d say the super pursuit mode should have been used in a two parter episode and that’s it. It’d look cool. This unfortunate change comes from a fundamental misunderstanding that Knight Rider is popular because of the cool KITT features and gadgets and the more we equip KITT the larger audience we get. Knight Rider was never about that. KITT was cool and futuristic from the very beginning and if there weren’t any changes to KITT’s features the ratings would have been just fine. The heart of the show is Michael and KITT’s relationship and additionally the team as well.

Knight Rider wasn’t cancelled due to poor ratings. Most other shows would have been renewed with such ratings but Knight Rider was growing more and more expensive. Moreover, The Hoff wanted to focus a lot more on his music career. All these factors combined resulted in the unfortunate cancellation.

If I were to rank the seasons of the show it is very easy. Season 1 is the best, then season 2 is close second. After that season 3 and the last and certainly least is season 4.

"One man can make a difference Michael."

"Michael Knight, a lone crusader in a dangerous world. The world of the Knight Rider."