Knight Rider: Season Two
When a popular season achieves the holy grail of season renewal the producers usually try to alter the show. Often this has disastrous results but fortunately for Knight Rider most of the modifications where consistent with the series and made for a bit more fun. While many shows tinker with things until the show is a far cry for what made the first season successful the producers of Knight Rider managed to pump things up a bit without loosing the camp charm that had people tuning in. Using the time honored ploy of most of the super hero comics the super car, KITT is augmented, giving him more fantastic abilities to fight the endless stream of villains. To their credit the writers did not push these new features, many where only used once or twice, allowing the audience to remain with the functions that captivated the fans in the first place. Some of these new features in the improved KITT included rotating his license-plate, driving on water and an improved Trajectory Guide feature. There was also a ramjet feature that pushed KITT’s speed over 300 mph. Sure, there was still the ability to leap over other cars, scan the surroundings, bullet proof and drive fast but these new features added a little extra spice to this second season. Thankfully they did not mess with the witty and often sarcastic talking computer that was KITT.
One mistake that was made in this season was replacing the female mechanic Bonnie (Patricia McPherson) with the more glam April (Rebecca Holden). Bonnie had the girl next door thing going for her, an appeal that attracts male views while not being threatening to the females watching. Holden was too much of a Farrah Fawcett look alike with the sweeping hair and glossy lips. Personally I preferred Bonnie in overalls and a pony tail. April remained mostly eye candy with little to do with the actual plot except patch together KITT after a brutal fight or explain what new feature she has just installed. April only lasted this one season with Bonnie returning by popular demand in season three. It goes to show that sometimes the studios actually listen to the audiences.
The device that drives most of the story lines is still basically the damsel in distress, the beautiful young woman that needs Michael’s (David Hasselhoff) help. One novel variation was to have Michael respond to the plea of a young boy, often with an attractive, young widowed mother. This served to broaden the general appeal of the series to include the younger members of the audience. This technique also permitted Hasselhoff to show of his big brother side. He has a natural charm that goes beyond the ladies man; he is great in scenes with kids. My wife assures me that women also finds this very attract in itself. At the heart of this series is the lone warrior fighting for justice and helping the disenfranchised.
By the second season it is usually time to introduce a recurring arch enemy. For Knight Rider it came in the form of Garth Knight (David Hasselhoff) and his super truck Goliath. The truck was created by the vindictive son and ex-wife of Wilton Knight and naturally set to do as much evil as possible. Instead of KITT fighting a prototype car with similar abilities to his own now he must face a more powerful truck, as the name implies it turns the story into a fight of a smaller individual against a much larger and powerful opponent. This story arc also gives Hasselhoff a chance to use his soap opera experience. After all, the evil twin has been used there since the beginning of that day time format. Audiences respond to the good versus evil story and most likely always will. This is also the perfect set up for the always popular thread of KITT being almost defeated, having to muster everything to win.
David Hasselhoff has a way with television audiences. There is something about him that makes him likeable, people like watching him. One reason is he never gives in too much to over acting. Sure, there are melodramatic moments, especially when in the guise of the evil Garth where he pushes it a bit but that is usually acceptable when playing an arch enemy. There is also a natural chemistry between Michael and the KITT. This is largely due to the wonderful vocal and acting abilities of William Daniels. While Daniels is never seen his presence is always felt. Daniels is a veteran of stage and screen and brings that experience to point even though only his voce is ever heard. The two actors bring out the best in each other’s performances to the entertainment of the audience. There is a lot here that is reminiscent of such cop buddy flicks as the Lethal Weapon films or 48 hours. The one partner is all action while the other quips relentlessly at his friend. It is done so naturally that you can almost forget that this partnership is between a man and a machine. Daniels embodies such personality in KITT that he is almost a human character.
This series is from the imaginative mind of Glen A. Larson. Larson is responsible for some of the most popular television series of the eighties. His resume includes Battlestar Galatica, Quincy and Buck Rogers. He was in touch with what would attract television audiences week after week. While most of his shows where formula in nature the trick that Larson knew so well was to make that formula one that the viewers could identify with. There is a sense of the everyday man here. Even though his heroes where usually somewhat bigger than life they still had a human side that allowed the audience could emotionally bond to. Larson’s series where always wholesome, the kind of series that the family could enjoy together, he tapped into the escapism that was so needed in the turbulent eighties.
Universal knows how to present these cult classic television shows on DVD. While this particular box set does not sport extras it gives you your money’s worth with all episodes of this second season. The video does have the occasional spot or streak but typically is clear, with a well balanced color palette. The Dolby mono audio presents the dialogue without ever being over powered by the background music. If you enjoyed these shows back when they where first aired this set is a must have. Buy it and watch it with your kids. Show them what family entertainment is all about.