Knight Rider (Season 2) Review
I'll admit that I was both young and foolish but I'm guessing that it was during Knight Rider's first season that a friend of mine came into school with a watch that could play the Knight Rider theme song. Needless to say, we were all very impressed - this was cooler still than digital calculator watches - but our hopes were slightly higher than the power of the watch's battery meaning that to hear anything at all over the din of a high school playground, it was necessary to hold the watch right up to one's ear to hear anything. Of course, a Knight Rider watch being as desirable an item as it was, this friend refused to take it off so we all had to hold this boy's wrist to the side of our heads to hear the Knight Rider theme reproduced in tinny, pre-polyphonic tones.
Looking back, such events, when combined with ill-fitting trousers, a bowl haircut and an aversion to bathing all damned me to a relationship-free year or two before figuring out that such things were not of long-term benefit and when said friend produced his second great find of the year - two of his father's pornographic magazines - great changes were undertaken and priorities shifted somewhat.
But as Mick Jagger once said, "It's 1972 - fuck it. We've done it!", so I, married with children, too have done it and can, like buying up reissues of Fighting Fantasy books and taking an interest in Roger Dean artwork, relax into nostalgia for very, very uncool things without worrying, as I would have done in 1982, that I might die a virgin.
Unfortunately, despite looking forward to receiving this boxset, it doesn't provide the rush of nostalgia that I had expected of it. After all, it's not as though Knight Rider has been off our screens for very long and, hence, going back to the show with this six-disc boxset is not quite the trip back to the early-eighties that reviewing The A-Team boxset was. Indeed, Bravo was showing Knight Rider and The Fall Guy only three years ago and whilst I realise that not everyone has access to satellite television, Knight Rider just doesn't really feel as if ever went away completely. Unlike The A-Team, which disappeared entirely when it was cancelled, as did many of its cast with the exception of Dwight Schulz in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Knight Rider has limped back as Knight Rider 2000 (1991), Knight Rider 2010 (1994) and Team Knight Rider (1997) whilst David Hasselhoff has popped back up on Baywatch, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and atop the Berlin Wall leading the East German masses to freedom. As such, Knight Rider, from being on and off our screens over the past twenty years, isn't the immediate trip back in time that watching The A-Team was.
All that said, however, Knight Rider is still hugely entertaining stuff and, as you would expect, this is largely due to the casting of David Hasselhoff in the role of Michael Knight, a man who, according to the titles, does not exist. Whether that accurately and fully explains Knight's success with the ladies, his ability to right an obvious wrong or the sheer joy with which he drives a car that could very well get by without him is never satisfactorily accounted for but this joy is utterly infectious.
Through appearances in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and a recent interview on the Jonathon Ross show, Hasselhoff has revealed himself to be a man content to laugh at this own image, recognising how ridiculous he has appeared over the thirtysomething years that he has been in the public eye. After all, this is a man who spent several years running up and down a beach wearing bright red shorts and carrying a flotation aid so a sense of the bizarre must never be entirely far from his mind. And here, in Knight Rider, there's never the feeling that Hasselhoff ever felt upstaged by his talking car rather that he knew the show was not to be taken entirely seriously and, like all good actors should, ought to be enjoyed for as long as it lasted.
It is for that reason, I'm hoping, that Hasselhoff used this second season to expand his acting abilities a little, through the portrayal not only of Michael Knight but also of Garthe Knight, the bitter and twisted son of Wilton Knight, who seeks revenge on those who replaced him as the heir of the Knight Foundation with the surgically altered Michael Long. With a background in soap operas, playing Dr. William 'Snapper' Foster in The Young and the Restless between 1975 and 1982, Hasselhoff was no doubt well-used to the kind of nonsense whereby an evil twin takes revenge on their being cast out of a wealthy family and, as such, he plays Garthe Knight like you genuinely would not believe.
In Goliath, Hasselhoff has no more makeup than a handlebar moustache and a tiny, little beard tucked underneath his lower lip but what he lacks in facial hair, he makes up with grimaces, frowns and a slightly lower and, therefore, more angry voice, all the better to take revenge on the Knight Foundation. Yet this performance pales against Garthe Knight's second appearance in this season in the Goliath Returns two-parter later in the season, when he first appears in prison arm-wrestling a fellow inmate to the ground and sporting a huge and obviously fake grey beard. In Goliath Returns, Garthe is angrier than ever, driven on by revenge and by memories of his even more insane mother and, in stepping up to the mark, Hasselhoff reaches into a very bizarre place - a mix of high camp and genocidal psychosis - to nail Garthe. These four episodes are hugely entertaining and would remain the high point of the entire series even after the appearance of K.A.R.R. Indeed, the only really sad moment in the series is when Goliath and Garthe are finally destroyed, if only because the audience will never see such head-curdling acting ever again.
However, if the battles between Garthe and Michael Knight are a high point of the season then the replacement of Bonnie (Patricia McPherson) with April (Rebecca Holden) is a low point. Let it never be said that Bonnie looked like the most technically competent of engineers but with a no-nonsense haircut, overalls and a fondness for giving short shrift to Michael Knight's flirting, she was a good contrast to the women with whom Knight had more success. April, on the other hand, was a touch too glamorous and rarely looks entirely comfortable being driven around in a repair shop within the trailer of an articulated lorry. By season three, April was out and Bonnie was back in, just as the show should always have been.
For K.I.T.T., season two was a chance for the writers to add several new features, worked upon by Bonnie, one assumes, before she left. In came a rotating license plate à la James Bond's DB5, a ramjet and the ability to drive on water. These augmentations would culminate in the Super Pursuit Mode of season 4, which was a bid to see off cancellation of the show but came too late to make any real difference. In the end, not even the show's youngest viewers were fooled by Super Pursuit Mode, which claimed to be a way to take K.I.T.T. to speeds of over 300mph but, in reality, was no more than the producers speeding up the film, which meant that not only did K.I.T.T. travel at such speeds but so did any other vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian that happened to be passing.
Such tinkering, though, did rather miss the point with Knight Rider. It may well have been a crime/sci-fi show in the beginning but once K.I.T.T. had been established there was really no further need to build on the character. Was the show better served by having him drive on water? Did he need a grappling hook or was that just serve the writers attempting to get K.I.T.T. out of a bind? The best of Knight Rider are when such gimmicks are incidental and just comes up with a memorable villain, such as Goliath, K.A.R.R. and The Juggernaut, but whilst it was necessary, given the format of the show, to have the villains be dependent on some form of vehicle, that has its own limitations and Knight Rider was never destined to be a long-running show.
In the end, however, Super Pursuit Mode won out, which wasn't entirely surprising, and Knight Rider only lasted for another two seasons beyond this one. Yet that was not to be the end and Knight Industries limped on for another decade or so in various formats, thus tarnishing the memory of this original show. Whilst it is hard to hold a grudge against Glen A. Larson, I can't help but feel that as regards Knight Rider, he let the show down with not being able to leave it alone and it may, therefore, be foolish to expect much of the new Knight Rider film currently in production.
This six-disc DVD boxset contains all twenty-four episodes of Knight Rider's second season, which are also listed below:
Goliath: When Elizabeth and Garthe Knight, Wilton Knight's ex-wife and son, take their revenge on the Knight Foundation, they do so by using Goliath, a specially-built truck coated with the same Molecular Bonded Shell as K.I.T.T., which gives Michael and K.I.T.T. their toughest test yet.
Goliath was originally broadcast in two parts but has been edited into a single episode for this DVD release.
Brother's Keeper: When a terrorist threatens the use of explosives, Michael is sent by the Knight Foundation to go undercover into a prison to guard and break out a prisoner. Should he fail, the terrorist will use the prisoner to construct his most dangerous bomb yet.
Merchants of Death: Following their battle against Goliath, Michael and K.I.T.T. come up against another dangerous vehicle in the form of an experimental attack helicopter under the control of mercenaries.
Blind Spot: Michael and K.I.T.T. investigate Louis R. Gastner (John Milford), the owner of a wrecker's yard, who's accused of exploiting Mexican workers. When Devon identifies an informer in Gastner's business, Michael agrees to meet him but the informer is shot by two of Gastner's men and the only witness is a blind woman.
Return to Cadiz: Arriving at the beach to test the upgrade that will allow K.I.T.T. to drive on water, Michael and K.I.T.T. find an injured scuba driver washed up on the sands. After taking the diver to hospital, Michael meets his sister, Jennifer (Anne Lockhart) and, by investigating how he was injured, gets involved in treasure hunting.
K.I.T.T. the Cat: When Michael and K.I.T.T. arrive at the scene of a theft and find the cat burglar escaping, they begin investigating but find that it is the burglar, Grace Fallon (Geena Davis), who may be in danger from an obsessed cop who's prepared to shoot to kill.
Custom K.I.T.T.: When a gang of car thieves steal a classic Pennington Ascot Regency that had been borrowed from its owner by Devon, Michael must use K.I.T.T. as bait to trap the gang. First, though, K.I.T.T. has to teach a couple of amateur car thieves a lesson in ownership.
Soul Survivor: When K.I.T.T. is hacked, Michael Knight must battle his own car as well as finding the teenage computer genius who wiped K.I.T.T.'s memory. What Michael finds is that this kid is being manipulated by someone far more deadly, who has their own agenda against the Knight Foundation.
Ring of Fire: Michael and K.I.T.T. head south into Louisiana to find a man who threatens to kill his Cajun wife.
Knightmares: After an accident at a dam, Michael Knight loses his memory and wakes up forgetting all that has happened to him since the 'death' of Michael Long, who he now believes he still is.
Silent Knight: In season two's Christmas episode, Michael comes upon a young gypsy who witnessed a bank robbery and took a gold watch from the robbers. With the robbers pursuing him to get the watch back, Michael and K.I.T.T. must protect the boy.
A Knight in Shining Armor: When the owner of a treasure map is killed and his map stolen whilst staying at Devon's mansion, Michael and K.I.T.T. must intervene to save the girl who would provide the final clue that the killer needs to find the treasure.
Diamonds Aren't a Girl's Best Friend: On the trail of a diamond smuggler, Michael heads south into Mexico and, to his delight, finds that its a model agency that's suspected of the crime, run by Bernie Mitchell (Cameron Mitchell).
White-Line Warriors: Following a series of burglaries in Vista Beach, a small community by the sea, members of a car club are thought to be behind the crime but a family friend of Devon, whose boyfriend is in the club is not so sure. Michael and K.I.T.T. head off to Vista Beach to investigate. Meanwhile, K.I.T.T. gets another upgrade, this time to eliminate his engine noise.
Race For Life: When April's niece is admitted to hospital, the doctors say that she will die without a bone marrow transplant. With a gang leader as the only known donor, Michael has only a limited time to bring him in before Becky dies.
Speed Demons: With the Knight foundation about to cosponsor a motocross trial, Devon receives a letter saying that a competitor who was thought to have accidentally died in the previous year's competition was actually murdered. Not wanting to take any chances with the upcoming event, Devon sends Michael and K.I.T.T. to investigate.
Goliath Returns: Following his defeat at the hands and wheels of Michael Knight and K.I.T.T., Garthe Knight escapes from prison thanks to Goliath breaking down the walls of the prison courtyard. As Garthe sets about improving Goliath, Michael is asked to ensure a visiting scientist and laser specialist, Dr Klaus Bergstrom (Peter Mark Richman) is kept safe but when Garthe kidnaps Devon and April and swaps a biologically engineered double for Dr Bergstrom, Michael and K.I.T.T. must face a stronger and more dangerous Goliath.
This episode has been edited together from an original two-part broadcast.
A Good Knight's Work: When Cameron Zachary (John Vernon), a renowned criminal, finds that Michael Long is still alive, only now living as Michael Knight, he plans his revenge. Beginning by digging up Michael Long's empty grave, Zachary sees how Long fitted into the Knight Foundation's plans and sets his men after Michael Knight.
Mouth of the Snake: Michael and K.I.T.T. investigate the theft of a rocket launcher, the death of a lawyer and a codename, Boca Culebra, or the Mouth of the Snake. Crossing the border into Mexico, Michael, the lawyer's widow and a special government agent team up to find the rocket launcher before it can be used against K.I.T.T..
As with the Goliath episodes, Mouth of the Snake has been edited together from an original two-part broadcast.
Let It Be Me: Displaying an uncanny amount of foresight, Michael poses as a singer in a rock band whilst investigating the mysterious death of the previous singer. One can only assume that this was the highest-rated episode of Knight Rider in Germany.
Big Iron: Michael and K.I.T.T. are called in to inquire about the theft of equipment from a construction site but when they get too close, find themselves buried under tons of gravel within a quarry by the loader they were looking for.
As with The A-Team boxset, the picture and sound quality of this release is largely what you would expect and whilst it could have been improved with some remastering of the source material, even the ardent of fans of both Knight Rider and The A-Team would have to admit that such a thing was unlikely to happen.
There are no extras on this DVD release.
Knight Rider really only has three good seasons and this is arguably the pick of the three given the four Goliath episodes that are included. Best then, if you're looking for a Knight Rider set, to go for this one as the combination of K.I.T.T., Goliath and Michael and Garthe Knight really is as good as this show ever got and, even now, ought to close at hand should anyone ever put in a claim towards re-evaluating David Hasselhoff as a serious actor. Charming? Funny? Good-looking? He was all those things but as Garthe Knight, he proved that he was also entirely lacking in shame, which is something that would prove awfully handy to Hasselhoff when Berlin came calling.