The All-Pilot Project

The All-Pilot Project: Knight Rider & Gary Unmarried (Oct 13)

Remember back when every other show featured some sort of high-tech vehicle? Personally, I can’t get over the fact that there were once two shows about crimefighting helicopters in the same season. Is the new Knight Rider the return of the vehicle-themed series? Let’s find out!

Knight Rider Wednesday 8 PM, NBC

The Premise: It’s a revamp of the 80’s series featuring a talking car. Only this time, there are conspiracy theories and scientific gobbledygook a-plenty.

The Personnel: IMDB assures us that David Hasselhoff is on the show, although he doesn’t appear in the pilot. The cast is primarily young and pretty unknowns, but veteran character actor Bruce Davison is on board. Also, Val Kilmer is the voice of KITT. It was supposed to be Will Arnett, but product placement got in the way. Will Arnett would have made a much better talking car.

The Poop: OK, so in the first twenty minutes of this episode, there’s a gunfight, a car chase, and then a scene where a car drives itself down the highway at 300 miles per hour, while on fire. Oh, there’s also a half naked woman in the passenger seat. If somebody described that scene to me, I’d think it was the greatest thing ever and would immediately structure my week around watching this show. And yet, the execution was boring.

That’s right, boring. A scene involving a flaming car and boobs was boring. Up until just this minute, I wouldn’t have believed that was possible. Is it possible it would have less boring if the flaming car had been voiced by Will Arnett? Most likely, but it would still be pretty boring.

The pilot doesn’t do a good job of introducing the characters. Admittedly, I didn’t watch the TV movie that served as a prelude to the series, but still, they should have taken the time to tell us the characters’ names, or what the Knight Foundation actually does and why they have a talking car. It’s one thing to build the characters slowly, but if you can at least explain what their goal is, even in broad strokes, we’re in good shape. As it is, I don’t know if the Knight Foundation is a private organization, government-run, or even whether they’re actually evil. Most of the things we do seem to be pretty value-neutral, after all. Oh, the lead character, Michael Traceur, is the son of Michael Knight, from the original series. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you that three minutes before the episode ends in a way that suggests you’re stupid for not already knowing it.

But who needs character development when you have a talking car, right? Well, about that… See, KITT now has the ability to morph into other types of cars, which only increases the opportunity for product placement. I realize that a sentient car already means we’re not looking at strict realism, but that’s stretching it. If this car can transform, we’re clearly viewing a world where technology is hundreds of years ahead of anything we can produce. It’s jarring. Although, I do have to say that KITT’s “attack mode” made me laugh, because in addition to growing armor plating, KITT also extrudes what appears to be a cow catcher. There are literally ones of applications for that particular device!

Of course, they explain that KITT’s abilities come from “nanotechnology”, which, at this point, is like saying “magic”. (Sidebar: Every time somebody cites nanotechnology as a plot device, Grant Morrison should get a quarter. He was using it back in 1992!) Whatever their explanation is, they have a rolling deus ex machina. Terrorist cut off your thumb? Put your hand in the glove compartment! KITT will cauterize the wound, numb it, and even out a fancy splint over the wound. It’s ridiculous and leaves the door open for sloppy plotting. Also, I’m irritated that when KITT changed from a pickup truck to a sports car, the people in the bed of the truck weren’t crushed to death and instead ended up in front seat.

Knight Rider actually follows in the footsteps of last season’s failed Bionic Woman. It wants to have an intricate mythology like Lost or Battlestar Galactica, but it doesn’t want to work for it. There are references and reactions that are clearly supposed to whip the Internet into a frenzy as they analyze the meaning and significance of every piece of dialogue, but since it’s not actually clear who these people are or why they’re doing what they’re doing, it’s impossible to care about hidden motives. The final scene shows two of the supporting characters being all sneaky and sinister, only they’re doing exactly what the plot indicated they would be doing. The point of getting the thumb was that they would analyze it, and then when they actually analyze it, it’s supposed to be all creepy and furtive. I’m so confused.

The Prognosis: If they can make a flaming car boring, there’s no hope. Of course, if KITT were voiced by one Mr. Arnett, I’d be obligated to watch. So that’s one good thing about the switch to Kilmer, I guess.

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