NBC takes Knight Rider on first big-screen test drive

After trying its hand at updating the “Bionic Woman” television series, NBC has now set its executive sights on another popular ’80s show. “Knight Rider” was a highly successful television series featuring David Hasselhoff as an everyday hero that drove an ultramodern sports car that could talk. The series premiered Sept. 26, 1982 and ran until Aug. 8, 1986.

NBC revisited the old show and transformed it into a two-hour made-for-TV movie that premiered Sunday. According to Entertainment Weekly, the movie pulled in 12.7 million viewers, which may give the network a green light to begin a new series. However, the network may have to improve upon what was showcased.

The movie was indeed action-packed, but the comedy aspect weighed it down significantly – and that is not a good thing. What was supposed to be humorous came across as just plain campy, and some of the dialogue seemed forced and weak.

However, as a whole, the movie wasn’t all that bad. There were just a few scratches.

The new “Knight Rider” followed a similar premise as the old TV show – except this time, the writers added a few changes. The series was known for its sleek Pontiac Firebird Trans Am called the Knight Industries Two Thousand, formerly referred to as KITT. In the movie, KITT was a new 2008 Ford Mustang Cobra.

KITT, voiced by Val Kilmer, came across as conceited as opposed to confident. Back in the ‘8os, talking cars were considered very unconventional. However, today in a world where automobiles include navigational systems, rear cameras and push start buttons, the writers decided they had to give this version of KITT a few more nifty features. As a result, the new KITT could change colors, shift into different versions of a Ford Mustang and is practically damage proof.

The story involved a worn-out ex-army ranger named Mike Traceur, played by Justin Bruening of soap opera “All My Children” fame. Knight Industries recruited Traceur to locate KITT’s creator, who has mysteriously vanished. To complicate the plot, a group of criminals are out to steal KITT in order to utilize the sophisticated technology for their own devious means.

The plot was a little weak, but the producers did make an effort to update the series for a 2008 audience. They just should have tried a little harder. The movie also features Sydney Tamiia Poitier as a lesbian cop. Hasselhoff even makes a cameo appearance.

Because of the film’s great ratings, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the movie serves as a backdoor pilot. NBC may already be preparing for a fall series. However, to avoid the same devastation that “Bionic Woman” suffered, a “Knight Rider” TV show would have to shift from the movie’s campy tone and beef up the storyline. Perchance Sunday’s movie was just a first attempt.

After all, every car deserves a test drive.

Grade C+