Scene opens outside an ambiguously named “Foreign Consulate, Washington”. Snappily dressed man sashays through diplomat crowd with nondescript brunette on arm. It is clear that the man has more on his mind than international diplomacy. Or slipping surreptitiously into a closet with the brunette for a quick bilateral discussion. Instead, his eyes scan the room. And he has spotted the “package”!
Cue theme music. At this point the familiar James Bond theme wouldn’t be entirely out of place. Indeed, looking at the protagonist, played by the entirely pedestrian, wooden-faced ex-model and soap star Justin Bruening, one half expects a budget Bond rip-off. Instead, an oddly familiar piece of music ensues. Wait a minute! What is this? Realization emerges from the depths of your popular television-soaked mind.
Hot rod: Bruening and Russo with the Shelby GT500KR Mustang.
The joy! It is, in fact, an updated version of the theme music from David Hasselhoff’s testosterone soaked 1980s TV phenomenon Knight Rider. That moment of realization is sweet for anyone who grew up watching the show. Yes, much like its namesake cricket team, the original show had neither plot nor performances to speak of. But it had Knight Industries Two Thousand, a souped-up Pontiac TransAm car installed with an artificial intelligence (AI) computer, and known affectionately as KITT.
KITT and his partner in law enforcement Michael Knight, played by David Hasselhoff, provided compelling television viewing for four years from 1982. While the original show took itself quite seriously, it was clearly targeted at nine- and 10-year-old boys who’d forgive everything—the terrible acting, cheesy plots and reused special effects—just to see a tall man drive a super fast car and save many babes.
The 2008 reboot of the show, which had its Indian premiere on Star World this Thursday, revisits the story of the driver-car duo that works for FLAG, Foundation for Law and Government, and helps the government fight crime. But the time is 25 years after the original. The driver is the son of the first Michael Knight and his car is not a Pontiac but a Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang.
Son-hero-stud Michael Traceur has to evade capture, rescue a crime-fighting partner and then flee from the Foreign Consulate in the new KITT, Knight Industries Three Thousand (the car’s AI is voiced by Val Kilmer. So so). The “package” is still at large, and in the course of the pilot episode we are rapidly reintroduced to FLAG, the new hero, the Transformer-like car and the astounding all-round babe factor that pervades the show. Deanna Russo, the lead female, is a stunner and more than up for a fight with KITT for male eyeballs. The show seems to have advanced its target audience to 15 years and up—an audience that’ll happily make the necessary trade-off of plot for visual inspiration.
The new Knight Rider only ran for a season in the US last year. That’s not really surprising. There are several better shows out there—albeit few with the “run on constant loop in Maxim magazine’s lobby” virtue that this one has. But for fans of the classic series, this will bring back many memories. For newer viewers, there is Deanna Russo.
Knight Rider airs on Star World every Thursday at 10pm.