NBC aired its Knight Rider TV movie last night. It was a two-hour long Ford commercial disguised as entertainment, padded with lesbians, threesomes, bad acting, questionable technology, and meta-commercials. Whether it was nostalgia beckoning viewers to watch, or leftover Transformers lust, this TV "event" about an artificially intelligent car was Sunday night's biggest draw. Was it worth it? Find out in our spoiler-laden recap inside.
If you don't remember the original Knight Rider pilot, Michael Knight started out as Michael Long. He was a cop who was double crossed, and got shot in the face. The Foundation for Law and Government (hi folks, we handle both law and government, but we're a private foundation owned by a billionaire) takes over his care, surgically alters his face, dubs him Michael Knight, and sends him off to fight crime with their superintelligent, superexpensive car, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, or K.I.T.T.
So, after four seasons in the 80s, Knight Rider got mothballed and put into storage. But that didn't stop NBC from making Knight Rider 2000, Knight Rider 2010, and Team Knight Rider from 1991 to 1997. Last year, the success of Transformers made the network want to try one more time, and here's what we got. Yet another reason to hate the Transformers movie.
So why was last night's Knight Rider reboot so bad? Allow me to sum up: terrible writing and bad acting, and that's being generous.
The show started out with promise, with unnamed thugs breaking into original K.I.T.T. inventor Charles Graiman's home. After giving the man (actually, his decoy) a heart attack and shooting his Roomba, we see a few shots of our favorite A.I. car in the background as the thugs check out his workshop. Then, the nerdy thug (you know, because he wears glasses) says "I've never seen algorithms like these!" while looking at a screenshot from Tronon a monitor, and the whole thing goes downhill from there.
New and improved K.I.T.T. (now the Knight Industries Three Thousand) drives off on his own after deflecting some thug gunfire, and calls Graiman's daughter Sarah. She hasn't seen her dad in a long time, but K.I.T.T. uses the code word "Knight" (subtle), so she knows she can trust him, even though he turns out to be a talking car. He picks her up at her campus in Palo Alto (where she's a nanotech expert) and drives across the strangely soaking wet walkways on the quad, while the sun blazes down. Maybe they needed the water for all the dramatic skids.
Then, we're introduced to Mike Traceur. We know he's a cool playboy party dude because he's in post-threesome bliss. His nerdy sidekick wakes him up because he has thugs of his own at the door, wanting the money they loaned him. Ostensibly, this was for auto racing, although his car is a piece of junk and has the superpower of sucking. The thugs insult Mike. Cue the obligatory fight scene showing off what a badass Mike is.
Then, we're introduced to Carrie. A tough, young FBI agent who likes to surf in the morning after bedding other female hotties. Don't all FBI agents lead lives like this? She also happens to know Charles and Sarah, and gets called in when Charles is reported as dead. Meanwhile, Sarah and K.I.T.T. have now picked up Mike, who is trying to gamble his winnings back at the same NBC casino used by Las Vegas and Heroes. K.I.T.T. changes color to Deep Purple, which causes Mike to quip, "I didn't know it came in cholo." At least the weird 1980s racism of the original show hasn't changed.
The rest of the two hours unfold predictably. The kids hook back up with Sarah's dad, Michael's mom gets killed (boo hoo emotional moment), K.I.T.T. gets hacked, and there's a showdown between the talking car and an approaching thug-filled Yukon. Mike steers the car in front of them and whammo: it crumples like an accordion into K.I.T.T.'s indestructible nanotech hide. Of course, this leaves the passengers in the Yukon dead and/or bloodied up, including Sarah's dad who survived with just a cut on his forehead. Michael stares down the guy who shot his mom, and the bad guy gasps "This... changes... nothing." Probably the lamest last line from a bad guy ever.
Then we have what's meant to be a touching scene with The Hoff showing up at Traceur's mom's funeral as Mike's dad, Michael Knight. It's one of the worst father/son reunions ever, although it did actually make us miss The Hoff, and I never thought that would be possible. As Michael walks back to the koi pond he apparently lives in now, Mike decides to be the new driver of K.I.T.T. In the final scene, he backs the car down a ramp which looks like it might be from the old Knight Industries 18-wheeler, but it turns out to be a huge black C-130 plane. Looks like they've increased the budget. K.I.T.T.'s superspoilers morph out, the supporting cast (including Mike's lame goofy sidekick buddy) give a thumbs-up, and they drive off into the distance hopefully never to be seen again.
What's really sad about the whole thing is that K.I.T.T. is supposed to be a cool artificial intelligence, but he spends much of the show asking Mike twelve-year-old kid questions like "Are you a homosexual?" and chastising him with photos of Iron Eyes Cody and his single tear when Mike almost litters. He also tries to comfort Sarah about the news that her father might be dead by saying "That does... suck." Mind you, K.I.T.T. says that, not Mike. Made all the more creepy by Val Kilmer's monotonal K.I.T.T. that lacks all the charm and wit of William Daniels snotty car voice.
Just when you thought that it couldn't get much worse, though, there were a lame series of Ford Focus commercials featuring Mike Traceur out on a date being followed by a jealous K.I.T.T. These little vignettes put together told a story that was meant to pimp out the Ford Sync system that can voice-activate your songs and read your incoming text messages. We just want to see the look on a parent's face when their teenager's car radio system pumps out "WTF LOLZ OMG!" using one of these things. Needless to say, the Knight Rider-inspired commercials were craptastic.
So what was cool about the show? Well, very little. The solar hybrid gas system was a neat idea, but we want K.I.T.T. to run on plutonium or something. Not regular unleaded. The nanotechnology was fairly fun, and the bullet-deflecting animations were the best CGI in the show. K.I.T.T.'s morphing spoilers were interesting, but why not just grow wings and fly instead of rocketing down the streets at 191 mph? If a car happens to pull out of a driveway or a dog runs into the road, we have a feeling even K.I.T.T. would be fucked. But, give us a car that can change color over and over and it's all OK.
There was also a lot of sucky technology in the show. Why did K.I.T.T.'s computer have to be active in order for the nanotechnology to work? Wouldn't the outer shell of the car go all gray goo every time it powered down? Plus, did you catch the brief glimpse inside K.I.T.T.'s accessory drawer? He not only had an earpiece for Sarah, but it looks like he also comes stocked with Morpheus' red and blue pills, a jar of skin lotion, and who knows what else. Not very A.I. And what the hell with the manual mode? The pedals drop down and the shift-lever pops up. So why does he have a steering wheel when not in manual mode? Beats us.
There's no telling if this thing will actually go to series, but given the fact that there hasn't been much of anything new lately... this might have pulled in decent numbers. If it does, be sure to look for another weekly opportunity for us to bitch about it. You know, we probably wouldn't have hated it so much if K.I.T.T. would have turbo-jumped at least once. That's all we're asking for. We tried to tell you not to do it, Hollywood. But if you just had to, you could have at least thrown us a bone. If you're eager to relive the pain, you can check out Jalopnik's high-larious liveblog of the show after you track down a copy online. Just don't say we never warned you.