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Saturday, October 08, 2016

A Satisfying Knight

Tonight my brother Sean came over, and on a whim we watched the two-hour pilot episode of the 1980s action hit Knight Rider - in high definition, no less.

For those too young to remember Knight Rider, it's about a man, Michael Knight, and his amazing car, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, or K.I.T.T., an artificially intelligent, indestructible, super-fast Trans Am with a wide range of James-Bondian special features. Together, Michael and K.I.T.T. fight crime.

The pilot introduces viewers to Michael Long, an undercover cop who is shot in the face and left for dead only to be rescued by the mysterious Knight Industries. His face is reconstructed and he lives again as Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff). In this first adventure, Michael, K.I.T.T. and his benefactors at Knight Industries track down the industrial spies who "killed" Micheael Long, bringing them to justice and setting the stage for four more years of adventures.

The show is every bit as entertaining as I remember from my teenage years. It's actually a little - just a little - smarter than I remember, at least in this initial outing. The car's technological feats are outlandish, of course, but a little less so today with self-driving vehicles on the horizon. Hasselhoff is an amiable star with narrow but serviceable emotional range, and the scripting is just as smart as it has to be for this sort of genre fare.

My favourite moment of the pilot derives from a sub-plot involving two car thieve who want K.I.T.T.; they think it's merely a very nice Trans Am. At one point, frustrated by their failure to break into the car with a lockpick, one of the thieves hefts a brick.

"Oh, please let it bounce off the window and hit him in the face," Sean said. And that's almost exactly what happens. The thief heaves the brick, and it bounces off the bulletproof side window and hits his partner squarely in the face. Michael Knight then arrives and drives off, blissfully unaware of the attempted robbery. Sean and I both howled.

As cheesy as action-adventure television of the 1980s could be, I find a lot to admire in them. The heroes are refreshingly unconflicted in their pursuit of justice and decency, the stories are simple but timeless, and the occasional clever thread of social commentary works its way into the narrative. It's also just plain fun to observe the fashion, architecture, design and technology of the times; at one point Devon, Michael's handler, speaks to him via a huge mobile phone held in a briefcase.

I look forward to screening the rest of the show over the course of the next few months. 

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