Let me burst your nostalgic bubbles immediately, dear readers. There was absolutely nothing redeeming about the two-hour TV-movie attempt to relaunch the Knight Rider franchise. It was horrible on pretty much every level, from the acting to the plot to the special effects to the goddamn car itself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. (Yes, I realize the original series was stupid, too, but I'll argue that it didn't take itself as seriously as this did.)
But that got me to thinking–maybe there is a positive in me spending two sleepy hours trying to get through Knight Rider without committing random acts of violence: I learned that I might actually be an optimist. Some percentage of my brain–a very small part, but measurable–actually thought there might be something worth seeing in a two-hour network TV movie based on an '80s franchise starring David Hasselhoff and a talking car. Why should I have thought that anything even marginally good could come from this? Hell, they even replaced Arrested Development's Will Arnett as the voice of the talking car with Val Kilmer. (Funny how a role can seem plum and funny for one actor and like a ridiculous step down for another.)
Anyway, let me take this moment to tease a new feature that we're working on here at The A.V. Club: It's called "I Watched This On Purpose," and it will feature films and TV shows that we–mostly me and Nathan, I'm guessing, since we're gluttons for punishment–watched in spite of all indicators that they'd be pretty crappy. Knight Rider was like that.
Okay, back to the shit: Some bad guys, one with an English accent, break into some scientist guy's house, looking for some scientist-like secrets that could "start a war." (Cue footage of nuclear explosion, seriously.) They apply some light torture, then threaten to kill his beautiful daughter if he doesn't talk. The scientist dies of a heart attack, and the bad guys go in the garage–only to find KITT. The luxurious porno camera shows the new car. He's now a Mustang instead of a Trans Am, but he still has those red lights in front. And he talks. Wowee zowee.
So KITT–who I'll be referring to as Douchebot through the rest of this piece–has been programmed to find the scientist's daughter and get her to safety. She's a super-hot babe who also happens to be a professor at Stanford, and when the baddies show up on campus to kill/kidnap her, KITT comes to the rescue. Even though it's a fucking TALKING CAR, she learns to trust Douchebot immediately, giving up important feelings and plot points about her estrangement from her dad, his work with the government, and the death of her mother. Literally 10 minutes after being rescued by a talking car, she has already accepted that a) there is a talking car b) it has come to rescue her and c) she can use the car as a psychoanalyst. Also: terrible actress. Awful. Terrible.
At some point in here, we're introduced to the character that's obviously being set up as "the new Michael Knight," Michael Traceur. In his first scene, he is in bed with two nearly naked hotties, and he has a poster of a half-naked hottie on his wall. Clearly, the people behind the new Knight Rider want us to think that new Michael is a repressed homosexual. Or that he's a superstud, like his [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER, BUT YOU WON'T BE WATCHING THIS ANYWAY] long-lost dad. New Michael also has a little race car, with the number 69 on the side! Ha!
Seriously, though, in the interest of fairness, Knight Rider also features a prominent gay character–a total hottie FBI agent who's introduced to the camera while she's in the shower! And then she goes back to her room, where we learn that she just had a one-night-stand with another hot lesbian! (You think I'm making this up, but I swear to Douchebot I'm not. This all happened, and then was quickly brushed aside.)
I know what you're thinking, smart A.V. Club readers: "This sounds like fun! It's high camp! The producers are winking at us!" They're not. They're trying to appeal to the 14-year-old boys who they think will want to watch this crap. Those boys have Internet access, though, and probably cable systems with access to porno 24 hours a day. They don't need Michael Knight Jr. to live vicariously through. I'm reminded of a Bloom County strip in which Mike Binkley tells various other characters harsh truths. When he gets to man-child Steve Dallas, he says, "The truth, Steve, is that Knight Rider is actually a children's program."
Anyway, things slide quickly downhill. Douchebot's special powers are pretty lame. He's bulletproof and crashproof only if his computer is enabled. (How ridiculous is that?) He's also able to change color (oooh!), which is an obvious ploy to sell more Mustangs. There's even a running series of commercials starring the new Michael Knight, a Ford Focus, and KITT. (These are, incidentally, more entertaining than the show itself.) It turns out the scientist is alive–body double!–and is actually Bruce Davison, a character actor who must've needed some cash pretty badly. Somewhere in here we're introduced to the new Michael Knight's mother, who is fairly quickly killed by a bad guy's bullet.
So blah blah blah, new Michael figures out how to work KITT, kills most of the bad guys without being outwardly violent, and then goes to Mom's funeral. Standing far in the background–you saw this coming, because you know he's a whore–is David Hasselhoff, who introduces himself to the son he's never met and tells him that "one man can make a difference." New Michael turns down the job, then accepts it, setting the world up for a new Knight Rider series. Which can't possibly happen. No one who watched this thing could possibly be begging for more. Not that the series was particularly great to begin with, but this is just brain-dead.
-- Instead of an awesome wristwatch for car-person communication, there's a huge, ugly earpiece. WTF?
-- The voice of KITT has no sass at all. None. So boring.
-- How many secret government projects (in movies, that is) over the years have been called Prometheus?
-- Daughter, to KITT, bemused, about 10 minutes after learning her father is DEAD: "You're impossible, because you're my father." Ha ha!
-- KITT: "I do not kid."
-- KITT: "Are you a homosexual?"
-- Poker superstar Phil Laak showed up in a casino scene, and that boring shit was the most exciting part of this show.