Given my love for all things 80’s I was pretty excited earlier this year when NBC decided to relaunch one of my favorite TV shows from the 80’s I was pretty stoked. Quite frankly, I was a little disappointed in the made-for-television movie as it seemed to bog itself down in weak dialogue and fall short in some of the action beats. Also…there wasn’t enough KITT.
Through the Summer, and especially leading up to the Fall season, I have watched in silence and moderate interest as NBC prepared to debut Knight Rider as a series. The ComiCon debut of KITT was pretty cool. A little anti-climactic, but cool nonetheless. Back in May, showrunner Gary Scott Thompson made it clear that he wanted the regular series to distance itself a bit from the backdoor pilot/television movie. In fact, he had a specific direction in mind for the show that bring the viewer more action, a more interesting story, and more KITT.
Did the showrunner and his team deliver on tonight’s series premiere?
Yes and no. That’s an enthusiastic “yes,” and a I-can-see-where-people-will-have-problems “no.”
Let’s start with what’s weak because there is less not to like here than to get excited about.
The human aspect of the episode comes from Mike Traceur’s apparent memory loss concerning his time serving with Special Forces in Iraq. He is attacked by a group of men who know him, but with whom he is completely unfamiliar. Later in the episode, he has a run in with a woman that he had a relationship with, but, just like his previous attackers, he doesn’t know her.
All the while, Sarah, the SUPER-HOT love interest grows more jealous and more suspicious of Mike. Also, there is apparently some underhanded stuff going on within F.L.A.G. (Foundation for Law and Government), but that is barely touched on, and you don’t know if everything is ok or not in the end. However, that aspect could be ok. I like the idea of being a bit fuzzy on whether or not there is actually something afoot in the Foundation because it could serve to make things more interesting. To draw an illustration from Smallville, it’s like not knowing how good or evil Lionel was in the latter seasons of Smallville. You know something’s going on, but you don’t know just how much is going on.
Finally, I don’t know that I buy the Sarah/Mike relationship. It’s handled in a very quick and easy way a la the show from the eighties. I think that the writers and showrunners could invest a bit more into the relationship to help the viewer be a bit more interested in those two crazy kids.
So, that’s the weakest part of the show for me.
On the strong side, the action is definitely here. The first ten to fifteen minutes of the consists of a fist fight, a car chase, a missile being fired at KITT, KITT catching fire, and KITT nearly ramming through three feet of concrete to sace Mike and Sarah’s lives. By the time you’ve had a chance to catch your breath, the show is off and running into the meat of the episode which consists of Mike trying to recover “the package,” some type of code for some type of world-threatening something else. In recovering “the package” we are treated to a pretty long car chase featuring some great banter between KITT and Michael, and KITT and members of the Foundation.
While we got some cool transformations of KITT from a car to a truck, and of course from normal mode to attack mode, I kind of miss pursuit mode. However, pursuit mode’s not really needed because KITT is super-fast without it.
The effects are great for television. Transistions between a digitally morphing KITT into a real vehicle are pretty seamless. While I’m aware I’m looking at digital work, it is hard to tell where digital ends and real begins. I don’t know if they are taking away digital layers slowly to blend into the real physical stuff or if it’s just camera work and editing and that makes things go so well, but it works.
The best effect in this episode was a blazing KITT flying down the road at over 300 miles an hour. It was a great effect that was quite passable as real.
While there was no David Hasselhoff present in this episode, showrunners have expressed a strong desire to get him in on the show again with the original KITT matching wits with the new, more-advanced version of the vehicle. However, it’s gonna take this show making it to sweeps to see something like this though.
Can it do it? I think so. The show is fun. This episode is better in a hour than the movie was in two. From the opening sequence, you can tell it’s a different animal the television movie was. The drama and intrigue is there, but even more so is the action one would expect from Knight Rider.
Don’t expect too many throwbacks to the original show just yet. They’re there. Mike takes the last name Knight by the end of the show, but that’s it as far as throwbacks go. There are rumors of CARR floating around on the net. There is the talk of the original KITT and the Hoff making an appearance or two, but I think the writers did a good job in this episode of making this show it’s own animal. That’s a good thing.
Overall, I give this episode 3 artificially intelligent Mustangs out of 5, and will definitely be DVRing this show in upcoming weeks.