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Televisionary Exclusive: First Look at NBC's "Knight Rider" Pilot Script

It was with a little trepidation that I read the pilot script for NBC's planned two-hour backdoor pilot for the relaunch of classic TV series Knight Rider.

After all, I was more than put off by NBC honcho Ben Silverman's desire to make this relaunch of Knight Rider flavored by a little bit of Transformers, with a K.I.T.T. that was not only artificially intelligent but could also morph into other shapes.

Let me put the record straight after reading the pilot script by Dave Andron (Raines). K.I.T.T., the sentient Knight Industries Three Thousand vehicle, can morph but it's not quite what I had expected; instead of being able to transform into, say, a helicopter or amphibious vehicle, it can morph into a variety of cars... from its sleek black model to a sportier version or even, as in the script, a frilly pink number. So, not quite the Transformers-inspired reversioning that I had imagined; it's merely a case of K.I.T.T. being able to change its facade.

So what's the plot in a nutshell? Charles Kamen, the creator of K.I.T.T., is brutally attacked inside his expansive manse by a group of mercenaries working for the mysterious Client. These men are after a number of encrypted files on his hard drive, but they are extremely irritated when Kamen suffers a heart attack during the attack. Frustrated, they turn to Kamen's estranged college student daughter, Sarah, who might be able to decrypt the files they need. K.I.T.T. is activated and goes off in search of Sarah, in the hopes that "he" might be able to reach her before the Client's hired men.

Not only is K.I.T.T. programmed to protect Sarah in the event of an incursion, he's also been wired to track down the only man capable of helping: former Army Ranger/hotshot race car driver Mike Tracer, a royal screw-up with a penchant for hiring multiple prostitutes to keep him warm at night and a huge debt owed to some people more than happy to break the legs of his Asian friend Dylan. Not coincidentally, Mike grew up in a shack on the Kamen property with his single mom Jennifer. Hmmm, single mom? Could Mike be named for his father, Michael Knight? You'd be right.

Sarah and Mike, who naturally have a romantic history, have to team up and work together in order to recover the hard drives and, you know, stay alive, especially when the Client's men are able to seize control of K.I.T.T. remotely. Hot on their tail are the Client's goons as well as FBI Agent Carrie Rivai, a woman of such single-minded determination and detective smarts that she's made a hottie surfer and a lesbian to boot.

So does Michael Knight make an appearance in this reboot? Well, that would be telling but suffice it to say that there's a final act plot twist that's less surprising than it is fitting for a backdoor pilot that serves to revitalize the franchise with a new generation of heroes.

The pilot isn't perfect and it could have done with a tighter rewrite, along with amping up some of the tension and peril as well as characterizations (show, don't tell, Dave!), but it is a page-turner, if only for the way that the plot keeps moving forward without looking back. Unfortunately, the downside to this is that several supporting characters are given extremely short-shrift, emerging from this pilot as little more than ciphers.

Much of the success or failure of the Knight Rider pilot will definitely be determined by the strength of the actors. Justin Bruening (All My Children) has already been cast as Mike Tracer and he certainly looks the part of the daredevil race car driver/All-American hero.

Ultimately, Knight Rider is a fun, check-your-brain-at-the-door high-octane adventure, but don't expect to see too much brilliance or originality at work here. Andron's script is serviceable but not as inventive or earth-shattering as I would have hoped for such a high-profile series relaunch. As is, I do think that direction from Doug Limon could have elevated this pilot with some feature-quality visuals, but I'm not all that sure, especially after reading the script, that director Steve Shill (The Kill Pit) is the right man for the job.

Still, in such stressful times as these, some mindless fun like this could be the perfect antidote to the real-life drama unfolding outside my windows. And, at the end of the day, one has to at least appreciate the fact that NBC is planning a scripted series instead of more reality TV...


K.I.T.T. transforms into a frilly pink car? Sounds more like Disney's Herbie than a relaunch of Knight Rider.
The CineManiac said…
So how many TV movies have they made based on Knight Rider?
I personally remember something like Knight Rider 2020 that was supposed to be a backdoor pilot and never came to anything.
Also, having K.I.T.T. transform into different cars reminds me of the NBC show Viper, which introduced the world to the Dodge Viper. That car might have only been able to change colors, i can't quite remember but it seems similar.
Anonymous said…

Viper had some kind of armor, but I don't think it was able to change into anything. Just swicth modes - from casual to "battle ready".
Anonymous said…
I think Knight Rider 2020 led to a syndicated series with multiple vehicles that lasted about half a season.

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