Knight Rider: Season One
Year: 1982 - 1983
Rated: Not Rated
Program Length: 19 Hours and 45 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: Episodes: English – Monaural (2.0) Movie: Dolby Surround (2.0)
August 3rd, 2004
Oh, the crazy years that were the 1980s – Reaganomics, Madonna, yuppies, hair-metal, the last days of the Cold War, and the emergence of a man named David Hasselhoff, who overcame his inability to act and made pleather jackets, always-in-place curly hair, and a talking car seem like the coolest things ever!
Debuting in 1982, the series Knight Rider, which propelled Haselhoff to fame, was (in executive producer Glen A. Larson’s own words) based upon a “bullshit premise”, but Mr. Larson was careful to ground as much of it as possible in reality, and to surround David Hasselhoff with more talented actors, so the audience would buy in. This, coupled with the enthusiastic way the stories were told, made Knight Rider one of the break-out hits of the 1982 television season, and especially popular with children. Larson’s philosophy gave the show staying power too, as Knight Rider ran for 84 episodes (six were two-hours long) over four years! Thus, I guess it is fair to say that Glen A. Larson, who also executive produced The Fall Guy, Magnum P.I., and Battlestar Galactica knew a thing or two about putting together a successful television show!
The debut episode chronicled how a dying millionaire named Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart) rescued a young detective who had been shot in the face, and gave him a second chance to bring justice to the dishonest as Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff). Michael would bring about this justice in an incredibly advanced car, powered by the Knight Industries Two Thousand microprocessor, or K.I.T.T. (voiced by William Daniels). This sleek, totally customized Pontiac Trans-Am was invulnerable to almost any attack, could reach speeds of up to 300 miles-per-hour, easily jump obstacles, and was outfitted with an impressive array of sensors and weaponry. Better still, it could help Michael score with the ladies!
Most importantly though, the car contained a sophisticated artificial intelligence unit, through which it could talk with Michael. Not only that, but K.I.T.T. had a unique personality which made for some comical interactions between Michael and his ride. In addition to adding some levity to the show, Michael’s ability to talk to K.I.T.T. meant he could call for aid when he was in a jam, or have K.I.T.T. cut escaping criminals off at the pass.
To fund this highly advanced and hugely expensive crime-fighting venture, the late Wilton Knight enlisted his trusted associate Devon Miles (Edward Mulhare), to manage the operation, called the Foundation for Law and Government, after his death. Michael, with Devon usually along for the ride, conducted most of their missions out of an eighteen-wheeler that served as a mobile command center, and which housed the equipment needed to maintain K.I.T.T.
The truck also served as a home to another member of the team, an attractive mechanic named Bonnie Barstow (Patricia McPherson), who kept K.I.T.T. in good working order! And together, this team sought to put Wilton Knight’s money to good use by bringing criminals to justice and protecting the innocent.
Without further adieu, then, let’s take a brief look at some of the adventures Michael and K.I.T.T. shared during the first season of their hit television show!
DISC ONE (Side A):
--- “Knight of the Phoenix (Pilot)” – Air Date 9/26/1982
The series begins in Las Vegas, Nevada, where detective Michael Long is working undercover on a case involving industrial sabotage. Shortly into the episode, Detective Long is shot in the head, but the metal plate in his head miraculously keeps the projectile from mortally wounding him.
This turn of good fortune results not only in Michael Long being granted a second chance at life, but also in another chance to fight criminals and protect the innocent. The latter of these two chances comes from a terminally ill, very wealthy, and quite eccentric millionaire named Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart), who conceals Michael Long’s identity through plastic surgery and brings him back to health at his lavish mansion.
Knight then provides Michael with a talking, micro-processor controlled car, the Knight 2000. This highly advanced car is armor-plated, equipped to handle most any emergency, and outfitted with an artificial intelligence known as Knight Industries Two Thousand (or K.I.T.T.). Behind the wheel of the Knight 2000, Michael Long, who takes the surname Knight (and is now played by David Hasselhoff) becomes a “lone crusader in a dangerous world”, out to foil the plans of criminals that are beyond the reach of the authorities.
Here in episode number one, Michael and K.I.T.T. are tasked with bringing the brutal criminals who left Michael Long for dead after shooting him in the head. Although they proceed uneasily at first (Michael is initially uncomfortable driving a talking car), the pair soon form a special bond, and go on to showcase some of the series hallmarks as they break the case open. To be more specific, there are plenty of wild, high-speed car chases and explosions, not to mention situations where Michael’s life is placed in jeopardy. Though exciting, the episode is also quite humorous, as it contains a running gag where two inept car thieves (Michael Roberts and Bert Rosario) keep trying to steal K.I.T.T., only to learn a lesson in good behavior from the haughty talking car!
--- “Deadly Maneuvers” – Air Date 10/1/1982
In the series’ second episode, Michael befriends Robin Ladd (Devon Ericson), an Army Lieutenant, whose father (a respected Colonel played by Thomas Gilleran), dies in a suspicious traffic accident. When Michael and Robin, with K.I.T.T.’s help of course, begin looking into the incident, they stumble onto a sinister plot to steal the U.S. military’s nuclear weapons and sell them for profit.
Of course, the criminals want to stop Michael from stirring up a hornet’s nest, so when he has to tread onto a missile testing site to rescue Robin, they pull out the heavy artillery –literally – to blow Michael and K.I.T.T. to kingdom come!
--- “A Good Day At White Rock” – Air Date 10/8/1982
In “Good Day…”, Michael starts out hoping to get a little rest and recreation in the small town of White Rock, but his overdue vacation gets interrupted by a hostile group of bikers preparing to wage war with a rival gang.
DISC ONE (Side B):
--- “Slammin’ Sammy’s Stunt Show Spectacular” – Air Date 10/22/1982
In this episode, Michael and K.I.T.T. make an effort to apprehend an unsavory character that is trying to drive Sammy Phillips’ (Eddie Firestone) automobile show out of business, by going undercover as a stunt act. But can they unravel the sinister plan before the crooked mortgage lender can put the curtain down on Sammy’s act?
--- “Just My Bill” – Air Date 10/29/1982
In “Just My Bill”, Michael and K.I.T.T. come to the aid of U.S. Senator, Maggie Flynn (Carole Cook), whose views on environmental issues place her in the crosshairs of some unscrupulous politicians.
--- “Not A Drop To Drink” – Air Date 11/5/1982
This episode of Knight Rider is pretty straightforward, with Devon sending Michael to help settle a dispute over water rights.
--- “No Big Thing” – Air Date 11/12/1982
“No Big Thing” finds the man behind-the-scenes, Devon, getting thrown into a small jail in the town of Lindhurst Flats on a misdemeanor charge. Unfortunately, the situation worsens when the police murder another prisoner, and Devon is left as the only one who was aware that the man was in jail when he died.
DISC TWO (Side A):
--- “Trust Doesn’t Rust” – Air Date 11/19/1982
One of my personal favorite episodes, “Trust…” features K.I.T.T. becoming entangled with “his relative” K.A.R.R. (the Knight Automotive Roving Robot), subsequent to which the two vehicles become engaged in a thrilling and destructive fight-to-the-finish.
--- “Inside Out” – Air Date 11/26/1982
During this installment, Michael is tasked with infiltrating a group of thieves, headed up by a retired Colonel, in hopes of foiling their plot to steal a shipment of gold.
--- “The Final Verdict” – Air Date 12/3/1982
In “The Final Verdict”, a mild-mannered accountant asks Michael to help locate a friend, who he hopes to clear of murder charges, before he is arrested for cooking the books.
--- “A Plush Ride” – Air Date 12/10/1982
Over the course of “A Plush Ride”, Michael enrolls as a student in a driving school for chauffeurs, to expose an assassin who is planning to kill a trio of foreign dignitaries.
DISC TWO (Side B):
--- “Forget Me Not” – Air Date 12/17/1982
In “Forget Me Not”, Michael is desperately trying to prevent the assassination of a Latin American president, but his only hope is to jog the memory of a young amnesiac girl who knows the plan, but cannot remember it.
--- “Hearts Of Stone” – Air Date 1/14/1983
This episode puts Michael into the mix with some illegal arms traders that are selling specialized rifles called “Corazon de Piedras” in Central America.
--- “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death” – Air Date 1/21/1983
In “Give Me Liberty…”, Michael signs up to drive in an automobile race, in order to smoke out the person responsible for sabotaging the cars.
--- “The Topaz Connection” – Air Date 1/28/1983
As this episode begins, the publisher of a magazine for men is murdered, and Michael’s subsequent investigation (in “Sin City”) leads to a story the magazine was about to print.
DISC THREE (Side A):
--- “A Nice Indecent Little Town” – Air Date 2/18/1983
In this installment, Michael follows the trail of a counterfeiter to a quiet little burg, but is surprised to find that the town not only serves as home to the criminal he is chasing, but is also under the watchful eye of the Central Intelligence Agency.
--- “Chariot Of Gold” – Air Date 2/25/1983
Over the course of “Chariot of Gold” Michael looks into the mysterious deaths of members of Helius, a secretive club whose members had been involved in an archaeological dig.
--- “White Bird” – Air Date 3/4/1983
In this episode, Michael tries to prevent a legal assistant named Stefanie (Catherine Hickland) from being framed for conspiracy, but there seems to be a conflict of interest - she was engaged to Michael before he became Michael Knight.
--- “Knight Moves” – Air Date 3/11/1983
In “Knight Moves”, Michael and K.I.T.T. try to put a stop to a team of thieves that is knocking off deliveries being transported by independent truck drivers.
DISC THREE (Side B):
--- “Nobody Does It Better” – Air Date 4/29/1983
In this episode, Michael is trying to reveal the person responsible for stealing confidential computer software information, but his investigation keeps running into obstacles created by an overzealous private investigator (Gail Edwards).
--- “Short Notice” – Air Date 5/6/1983
This time out, Michael and K.I.T.T. pick up a beautiful hitchhiker named Nicole Turner (Robin Curtis), but Michael’s generosity inadvertently leads him into a dangerous predicament in a seedy motel. Specifically, when Michael unintentionally kills the member of a brutal motorcycle gang, Nicole (the lone witness) will only agree to help him if he is able to recover her missing child first!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
All of the episodes from Knight Rider’s first season year are presented by Universal in the full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio in which they were broadcast, which is no surprise. What is surprising, however, is how good these episodes generally look, with a few notable exceptions (this is not a new show, after all!).
To begin with, colors have the typical dated ‘80s look to them, but do not suffer from dot crawl or banding. Blacks are also fairly deep, leading to an acceptable (if unspectacular) amount of shadow delineation. Image clarity and detail are also markedly improved over the television broadcasts as well, although grain and minor imperfections in the print are frequently visible.
Unfortunately, these positive aspects of the set’s image quality are offset somewhat by the liberal application of edge enhancement, which causes noticeable ringing around light-to-dark transitions. Another problem is that there are a handful of scenes sprinkled throughout the episodes that do not look very good at all. What I mean by that is all of a sudden there will be a significant increase in softness or graininess from one scene to another, which can be quite a distraction, even though these occurrences are generally brief! Tolerances to these things will vary, of course, so it may bother you less / more than it bothered me…and I think the problem is exacerbated because the episodes have been cleaned up.
I suppose that in the grand scheme of things, this initial batch of Knight Rider episodes looks about as good as they ever have – remember it is 22-years-old now (where does the time go???)! As such, I imagine that most fans will be quite pleased, despite the presence of a few brief but distracting shifts in image quality and edge enhancement halos.
The Knight Rider (also in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio) movie features similar video quality – good but not quite great. To begin with, the image is grainy and a bit soft, but still detailed enough to clearly make out the matte paintings in the film. Colors, from Michael Knight’s pastel ’57 Chevy, to the lustrous red of the Knight 4000, to flesh tones, are also well drawn, with no noticeable bleed.
Blacks do not fare as well, as the lack of definition causes detail to be obscured a bit in darker shots. The print, though clean for the most part, also contains its share of scratches and debris, which appear from time to time. A few scenes exhibit some digital compression artifacts or edge enhancement halos as well, although neither of these detract from the visual quality of the movie too much (in most cases).
Unfortunately, a few sequences are downright ugly, which detracts from the viewing experience even more! Check out the grimy flashback scene at 29 minutes in, or the shimmering trees at 70 minutes in, for examples of what I mean. There are a few other scenes that have similar problems, most often a sudden and distracting drop in the level of detail in the image. Fortunately, these shots come and go quickly!
All in all, the movie has some of the same ups-and-downs the episodes do, but the vast majority of the film still looks than I was expecting a made-for-TV movie from 1991 to look.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Much like this set’s image quality, the monaural Dolby Digital (2.0) mixes provided for these Knight Rider episodes are better than expected, but fall just short of greatness. Additionally, although it did not influence my assessment of the sound quality, I thought I should mention that the overall volume level for these shows is quite low.
Moving along, after turning the volume up high enough, characters’ speech is intelligible and clearly reproduced, although on a couple of occasions dialogue sounds slightly harsh (this occurs chiefly during the action sequences when characters are speaking very loudly). Other positives are that I did not notice any odd distractions during the episodes – no distortion, no hissing, etc, and that the show’s instantly recognizable main theme is also reproduced nicely enough that it almost sounds like stereo sound.
On the other hand, frequency response is only a little better than average, particularly in the lower registers, which means that the frequent explosions, gunshots, and car crashes do not pack that much of a punch. And as might be expected from a monaural presentation, the soundstage is also not as involving and expansive as the surround mixes we have become accustomed to. Even so, these tracks are not too shabby for mono, so I think the vast majority of this show’s fans will find these audio tracks to be a pleasant experience.
Unlike the episodes, the Knight Rider 2000 movie is presented in Dolby surround (2.0), and sounds more dynamic, but only slightly so. Again, dialogue is presented in a clear, intelligible manner, and the sparse, synth/piano heavy score sounds good, but effects are flat, especially the Knight 4000’s weak engine noise. It is a notch above the sound quality found on the episodes, but it won’t set anyone’s speakers on fire.
Audio Commentary for “Knight Of The Phoenix”
For the pilot episode, David Hasselhoff and Glen A. Larson team up to deliver an amusing and surprisingly easy to listen to commentary (probably because Larson is constantly throwing verbal jabs at Hasselhoff )! The commentary is not the most detailed I have ever heard, but Larson and Hasselhoff do provide quite a bit of detail on interesting topics like: how the theme music was developed, the contributions of various cast and crewmembers (and Pontiac), and how the running gag with the two car thieves was added to fill in time.
If you are a fan, make sure and give it a listen – and be sure to listen closely for the name of another famous actor that tried out for the role of Michael Knight!
DISC THREE (Side B):
“Knight Moves” offers a brief (6 minutes) but fun look at how some of Knight Rider’s Stunts were done, via interviews with stunt coordinator Jack Gill and actor David Hasselhoff. More specifically, the pair discusses what it was like to take K.I.T.T. through jumps, the variety of cars used on the film (for different stunts), and how the Knight 2000 was apparently driven without a driver.
This nice little extra, which runs for 6 ½ minutes, features composer Stu Phillips and TV guru Glen A. Larson, who discuss the show’s main theme music in detail. First, Phillips and Larson break down the theme’s components, and talk about its inspiration in a piece of classical music called the “Cinderella Suite”.
Subsequently, Phillips points out how he liked to take elements of the theme and use them throughout the episodes, and how Larson liked to use musical cues to emphasize the humorous aspects of Knight Rider. Finally, Mr. Phillips reveals his surprise at the resurgence of his most famous work in the rap music of Jay-Z and Timbaland & Magoo, after nearly 22 years.
DISC FOUR (BONUS DISC):
Knight Rider 2000: The Movie Sequel
Wow, talk about an extra – an entire feature film (albeit a made-for-TV dud)! Sadly, this movie takes the cheese factor too far, and the story and acting are D.O.A.! The new car, the Knight 4000, is also nowhere near as cool as K.I.T.T.! Anyway, here is a brief synopsis of the plot:
As the Foundation for Law and Government is on the verge of loosing a crucial government contract, Devon is forced to call on Michael to come out of retirement to supervise the completion of the Foundation’s newest vehicle, the much uglier Knight 4000. The need is urgent, as despite handguns being outlawed in Seattle, the crime rate has soared, and the current system of keeping convicts in cryogenic-freeze is proving to be ineffective.
Michael considers Devon’s plea, and agrees to return to action, but only if he can be behind the wheel of K.I.T.T. Unfortunately, this proves to be impossible, because K.I.T.T. has been dismantled, and Russell Maddock (Carmen Argenziano), the new head honcho of the Knight Foundation, sold all of the components.
Undaunted, Devon wants Michael back, and tries to reassemble K.I.T.T. Indeed, he somehow manages to obtain all but one microchip, which was implanted into the head of Shawn McCormick (Susan Norman), a policewoman who was shot in the head after discovering rogue cops selling illegal weaponry on the black market.
Despite this setback in reassembling K.I.T.T., Michael does joins the feisty policewoman, and as the two heroes try to resolve the handgun situation, they are able to revive K.I.T.T. by placing the artificial intelligence unit into Michael’s nice, pastel-colored 1957 Chevrolet. Now, it is their job to put an end to the gun-smuggling activities of Shawn’s crooked colleagues before it is too late!
As I said, this is a wonderful nod to Knight Rider fans, so Universal deserves some credit but the movie really is lame!
NOTE: Star Trek fans – be on the lookout for the one and only James Doohan (Mr. Scott), who is mistakenly accused of theft by K.I.T.T. at an automated teller machine!
Knight Rider: Under the Hood
Clocking in at 15 minutes, “Under the Hood” is the longest and most comprehensive of the featurettes, and consists of interviews with David Hasselhoff, Glen A. Larson, composer Stu Phillips, author Joe Huth, and stunt coordinator Jack Gill. The varied topics of discussion included (among other things):
--- The process of auditioning actors for the role of Michael Knight, and some background on the character.
--- The development of the concept for the show, and some details about how the Pontiac Trans-Am that became the Knight 2000.
--- The evolution of the interaction between K.I.T.T. and Michael, K.I.T.T.’s myriad of devices, and the effort to come up with a different nemesis for K.I.T.T. in each episode.
All in all, it is certainly not the most “deep” or detailed featurette of this type I have ever seen, but it was a pretty neat retrospective on the series and how it began.
The photo gallery features a wealth of black-and-white stills that play over the show’s theme music. The gallery’s running time is three minutes.
This bonus feature consists of a blend of sketches for sets and vehicles and scenes from the show. To be honest, this gallery, which also plays for 3 minutes, is not really that worthwhile. At the very least, I would have liked the opportunity to view the sketches at my leisure.
K.I.T.T. Owner’s Manual
This interactive extra consists of a mock-up of the Knight Industries Two Thousand’s interior. Viewers can highlight the different buttons and gadgets, and select them for a sentence or two of information about their functions.
Disc One contains promotional “trailers” for the following upcoming television DVD releases:
--- Magnum P.I. – Complete First Season, The A-Team: Season One, and Sliders: Seasons 1 & 2
There is also a teaser for the upcoming series Stargate: Atlantis!
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Ah, Knight Rider, a cool show that not only survived against Dallas, but was fresh and exciting for its time, as it featured a car as its co-star! Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, and William Daniels all worked very well together (remarkable considering that Daniels was never on the set), and the show is still surprisingly fun to watch! Sure, it may not be great, and is definitely not as well written as some of today’s television shows, but at the very least it has aged better than some of its contemporaries, like The A-Team.
As far as presentation is concerned, the Season One DVD set also comes fully loaded, with several featurettes, a commentary for the pilot, and even the feature-length Knight Rider 2000 movie! The image and sound quality are not what I would call great, but they are very solid (except for the edge enhancement), and surely beat broadcast quality! If you still have a place in your heart for Knight Rider then this set is comes recommended! Just don the leather jacket, pop yourself down in front of your display, and prepare to take a “shadowy 19 hour and 45 minute flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist”!