Super-Vehicle Sunday: “Knight Rider”

"Knight Rider" title card (credit: NBC TV)

On Sunday, September 26, 1982, NBC introduced us to a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of the Knight Rider: the world where one man can make a difference.  

That man was David Hasselhoff in the role of Michael Knight, an undercover cop killed in the line of duty, but was reborn like the phoenix to become a knight in shining armor: a lone crusader championing the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless.  Chosen by billionaire Wilton Knight to work for the Foundation for Law & Government (FLAG), Michael has been given the Knight Industries Two Thousand, aka KITT (voice of William Daniels): the car of the future.  For four years, they took on a world of criminals who operate above the law.

Though Knight Rider is considered to be “James Bond with a car”, the show is more of a sci-fi Western with Michael as The Lone Ranger and KITT as his trusty steed Silver.

Created by the late Glen A. Larson, the series became a hit: giving birth to the super-vehicle genre.  Its successled to shows such as

CBS’ Airwolf (helicopter nicknamed “The Lady”) in 1984 and ABC’s Street Hawk (the man… the machine … the motorcycle) a year later, and the syndicated Hulk Hogan 1994 series entitled Thunder in Paradise (speedboat). 

In 1986, NBC canceled Knight Rider, but remains popular all over the world.  It spawned the 1991 sequel Knight Rider 2000, which didn’t make it past the pilot stage (same goes for 1994’s Knight Rider 2010), but helped pave the way for Viper (1994, NBC; 1996-99, syndication) about a Viper sports car that morphs into a silver crime-fighting machine called the Defender.  

In the fall of 1997, there was another attempt in keeping the KR franchise fresh with Team Knight Rider (TKR).  Instead of one man and one car, there were now five FLAG agents with five state-of-the-art vehicles taking on a new breed of outlaw.  Sadly, TKR only lasted one season in syndication: ending on a cliff-hanger.  In 2008, NBC decided to bring back Knight Rider – this time, with Justin Bruening as the son of Michael Knight.  However, like TKR, this one also lasted one season.

Still, the legacy of Knight Rider will continue to live on with this motto: One man can make a difference

Video courtesy: NBC Classics

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