Review: Knight Rider TV Movie/Pilot

This review is for last February's two hour pilot - If you're looking for the September Knight Rider series premiere review click here.

Let's get just get straight to the punch line: NBC's Knight Rider TV movie (or pilot, depending on what you'd rather call it) was not nearly as awful as I had anticipated.

Now that that's out of the way, please don't mistake "not as awful" for "awesome."

I will say that one of the things I reminded myself of as I watched this with the intention of writing a review was that the original series was not exactly Citizen Kane.

Overall I would describe it as a typical mediocre TV movie punctuated with moments of awfulness.

BTW, there will be spoilers in this Knight Rider review, so you have been warned.

I fully admit that I expected the worst from this, so believe me when I say I was surprised that I actually found the opening few minutes to be pretty decent. A couple of bad guys posing as guys from the local electric company show up at the door of inventor Charles Graiman. It seems he's been working on some top secret government program and the baddies want the information on his hard drive, along with the decryption codes.

Dumb item #1: Graiman it turns out is working on some super-top-secret computer program called Prometheus which can control satellites, computer networks and prepare pancakes (ok, I made that last one up). It's so dangerous that in the wrong hands it could be used to start a war... And Graiman is working on it on his home computers.

As they're questioning and strong-arming him, he apparently dies. They explore the house and come across our hero: The Knight Industries 3000, aka K.I.T.T. The car promptly starts up on its own and takes off, but not before capturing an image of the lead bad guy, and showing off its bullet-proof abilities.

The bullet-proof visual effect was actually pretty cool, with a slow-mo closeup of the bullets hitting the car, causing some sort of crystalline effect and then bouncing off not leaving a scratch. I also liked the opening credits, which used the original music and definitely paid tribute to the old TV series.

Unfortunately when we return from commercial things get a bit cheesy. We start off with meeting the daughter of Graiman: 24 year old Sarah who is the prototypical attractive Ph.D candidate wearing glasses to make her look smarter. From there we cut to seeing Mike Tracer in bed with not one, but two babes, and he shares a house with the obligatory polar opposite geeky roommate.

It seems that Mike races cars and his roomie is the mechanic. Mike is in debt to some loan shark to the tune of $90 grand, and after demonstrating some of his ex-Army Ranger fighting skills is given until that evening to raise the money.

Dumb item #2: I found it hard to swallow that an ex-Army Ranger would be such an obviously undisciplined and irresponsible guy.

Then we cut to a beach scene with a lingering close up of some wet hottie removing her t-shirt to show off her glistening bikini-clad chest. It felt like the PG-13 version of a wet t-shirt contest. Immediately following we meet Carrie Ruvai, a tough FBI agent which the shows goes out of its way to show us is a lesbian with a penchant for one-night stands.

All this within the first 10 minutes of the show - I suppose to make sure that the target male demographic hangs around to watch then next 110 minutes, which BTW contains nothing even remotely resembling these first few scenes, thus proving my point for their insertion.

Anyway, K.I.T.T tracks down Sarah, warns her she's in danger, picks her up and then brings her to Mike because they had a brief fling and her father trusts him to take care of her if anything goes wrong.

I will admit that soap opera actor Justin Bruening wasn't nearly as bad as I thought he'd be based on the brief clips that were released about a week ago. I think that if this gets spun off into a weekly series he'll probably do all right.

What is there to say here? It was your pretty typical mid-level TV show. Not at the level of say, Journeyman, Lost or Battlestar Galactica, but it was better than Bionic Woman.

Part of what kept it from being better is that the story was pretty weak. The threat just wasn't all that compelling despite the described possibility of armageddon. It was basically "keep the bad guys from decrypting the code and uploading instructions to the satellite." Not what I'd call riveting.

However there were a number of thing that struck me as really annoying and sometimes blindingly stupid. The worst offender was a scene where our heroes, in their 540HP, computer driven Ford Shelby Mustang are being chased by the bad guys in what looks like one of those SUV/station wagon hybrids.

And the Mustang can't seem to outrun it.

Oh, but it gets better - the chase comes to a point where K.I.T.T. calculates that an escape opportunity is coming up but the probability of the bad guys dying due to the manuever is very high. The good guys manage to snake through traffic on a curvy mountain road at 100MPH with the baddies in hot pursuit. K.I.T.T swerves between cars and leaves the bad guys heading straight for an oncoming Mac truck with nowhere to turn... and we cut to commercial.

When we return to the scene in progress, we see the bad guys scream, slam on the brakes... and both the truck and their vehicle come to a stop within inches of their front bumpers connecting.

I actually yelled out loud at the ridiculousness of that scene! Two vehicles speeding towards each other at a combined speed of probably 160MPH with them seeing each other maybe 6 car lengths away - and they are able to stop in time to avoid a collision.

Ho-lee crap, are you kidding me?

Other dumb items of note:

- When K.I.T.T. first rescues Sarah, the bad guys leap away from her in panic, even though the car isn't even heading straight at them.

- Mike, who has returned from Iraq, says: "I've done plenty of fighting - trust me, it doesn't make a difference." Ah yes, I'm completely in the dark as to the political persuasion of whoever wrote that line.

- Where did 24 year old Ph.D candidate Sarah get $90,000 within a matter of a couple of hours to pay off the loan sharks?

- It turns out that Sarah's father survived, and his body double was killed (body double??). Why did he run off into the woods when he had a fully functioning, super-high tech bullet-proof car sitting in the garage?

What was good? I liked the nods to the original series with the opening credits, and at one point Mike's mother says to Graiman "It's not another Trans-Am, is it?" The car's "morphing" abilities were much more subtle than I had feared when I hear comparisons to the Transformers movie. It could change color, add a spoiler and other minor touches, and again, the effects were pretty cool.

I also liked David Hasselhoff's cameo. He actually played it well and I believed that this was the same Michael Knight, but much older.

If it becomes an ongoing TV series will I watch it? Probably not, but I think it would most likely find an audience.

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