Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: The Many Crappy Lives of Knight Rider, Part II -- Team Knight Rider

L-R: Kathy Trageser, Nick Wechsler, Brixton Karnes, Christine Steel, Duane Davis
This week we pick up with our leisurely walk through the different facets of Universal's perplexingly long-lived Knight Rider franchise. While the reunion movie Knight Rider 2000 in 1991 didn't turn into a series, that didn't stop the studio from giving it another try just three short years later with Knight Rider 2010, a backdoor pilot that aired in February of '94 as part of Uni's syndicated "Action Pack" made-for-TV movies (which also served as the launchpad for the hugely-successful Hercules: The Legendary Journeys).

Other than its name, Knight Rider 2010 had zero connection to prior iterations, set in a futuristic, Mad Max-esque dystopia in 2010 -- the world of tomorrow! Our lead is a daredevil driver named Jake McQueen (Richard Joseph Paul), who wanders the wasteland in a souped-up 'stang that's equipped with AI based on deceased love interest Hannah (Hudson Leick). I watched this when it first aired, but apparently it self-deleted from my brain immediately after, because I have no memory of it. Nonetheless, here's the scene where "Hannah" first comes to digital life:

Needless to say, though positioned to launch a series, Knight Rider 2010 couldn't quite muster numbers to justify the effort, presumably because folks who tuned in based on the title found nothing even remotely resembling what they were expecting. You gotta give Universal credit for stick-to-itiveness though, because just two years later they decided that if the one cool car plus one bad actor was enough to create audience loyalty in the '80s, the key to winning the '90s was an entire legion of cool cars paired with bad actors. To wit: Team Knight Rider!

Abertura de Team Knight Rider (Opening of the... by filmow

Premiering in syndication in fall of '97 (just after I graduated from high school), Team Knight Rider was pretty much exactly as bad the intro above might lead you to think. Unlike 2010, TKR did take its cues from the premise and core concept of the '80s show (though I believe it ignored the '91 movie), picking up a decade after the original show and following characters like "Kyle" and "Trek" and "Jenny" (who were paired up with various vehicles with names like "Dante" and "Domino" and "Beast").

The problems with the show can be boiled down to the piss-poor writing, the syndicated TV budget, and a calibre of acting from the ensemble that made you long for the magnetic charisma of David Hasselhoff. That's right. I said it. The Hoff, of course, was ensconced in the slo-mo, beach-running phase of his career by then, so he was MIA for TKR, but that didn't stop his character, Michael Knight, from making an obscured appearance in the first season finale, presumably to lead into a more prominent role (perhaps even reprised by Hasselhoff) the next year.

Of course, the basement-level ratings number virtually ensured that the first season finale for the show would also be its series finale. Team Knight Rider ended its run in spring of '98 after a single batch of 22 episodes (all of which pretty much dropped straight down the memory hole the instant they aired). While it's not available on DVD as of yet, you can watch the first ep below courtesy of Hulu. And while we never did get to see Michael Knight make that ballyhooed reappearance (in the '90s, anyway), it wouldn't be too long before he'd show up again. More soon. Eventually.

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