Knight Rider is one of the most successful and famous American TV shows based on action and crime, created and produced by Glen A. Larson. The series was broadcasted initially on NBC from 1982 to 1986.
The show features David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a sleek and modern crime fighter helped by KITT, an artificially intelligent, advanced, self-aware, and indestructible car. It was the last show series devised at Universal Television before moving to 20th Century Fox Television.
The show’s plot is about a self-made billionaire Wilton Knight who rescues police Detective Lieutenant Michael Arthur Long after the near-fatal shot to the face, giving him a new identity and a new name Michael Knight. Wilton chooses Michael as the primary field agent in his public justice organization’s pilot program, the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG).
The Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) testing program is another half of a highly refined, highly developed Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. It has many features, including a shell and a solid frame, controlled by an intelligent computer. Michael and KITT are introduced to situations where “direct action can provide a possible solution.”
The Devon Miles, the heading FLAG, provides Michael with the objectives and guidance. Drs. Bonnie Barstow is a senior engineer in charge of Devon’s KITT care and technical support (April Curtis completes this role in Season 2).
David Hasselhoff played the role of Michael Knight as an undercover detective of the Los Angeles police department who gets shot in the face while on a case in Las Vegas and barely survives. Wilton Knight, the founder of Knight Industries, commands his doctors to Long’s life and reconstruct his face.
With the new identity “Michael Knight,” Long is provided with high-tech crime-fighting equipment, most notably KITT. He also plays the role of Garthe Knight, the son of the Wilton Knight and a criminal mastermind who drives Goliath, a Peterbilt 352 Pacemaker semi-truck with rockets and protected by KITT’s Molecular Bonded Shell.
KITT, the artificially intelligent car partnered with Michael Knight, was voiced by William Daniels. Daniels requested that his work as the voice of KITT should not be recognized.
Edward Mulhare played the role of Devon Miles, the FLAG leader. He appeared in each episode of the show to provide Knight and KITT with details about the mission. He was also the FLAG’s spokesman whenever it came under scrutiny.
Patricia played Dr. Bonnie Barstow, KITT’s chief technician and source of romantic tension for Michael in seasons 1, 3, and 4. The producers decided to drop off the character, but due to solid fan reaction and lobbying by Hasselhoff and Mulhare, she was brought back for the third season and remained until the end of the series.
Rebecca Holden played the role of April Curtis, a chief technician of KITT, and romantic tension for Michael. The character was written when Patricia McPherson returned later on, but the connection between the two was never established in any episode.
Peter Parros played the role of Reginald Cornelius III, also known as RC3, driver of the mobile flag unit and occasional sideman for Michael and KITT.
Richard Basehart appeared as Wilton Knight, the founder of the FLAG, who dies in the pilot episode. However, his voice is heard throughout the series, narrating over the intro and outro.
In season 1, Larry Anderson played the role of Michael Long in the pilot episode. Hasselhoff replaces Anderson after Michael Long is shot in the Nevada desert. Hasselhoff’s voice is dubbed over Anderson’s for all of his lines. Anderson chose to go uncredited in the episode.
Patricia McPherson, the lead actress in the show, was fired at the end of season 1 for a disagreement with producer Robert Foster, and her character was recorded again. In the second season, McPherson was replaced by Rebecca Holden, Hasselhoff gets upset with McPherson’s dismissal, but he could not sue the show or the show’s producers. McPherson came back in season 3 after leaving the show at the end of the second season.
Catherine Hickland, David Hasselhoff’s girlfriend at the time, played Michael Long’s ex-fiancée, Steve Mason, in episode 19, “White Bird.” Hickland also contributed to the writing of this episode.
Hasselhoff celebrated Hickland’s birthday at the end of season 1 during the studio wrap party. A cake with a replica of KITT sitting on top was presented. The words “Look Under the Hood” were written in icing. Under the hood was an engagement ring, and Hasselhoff proposed.
Hickland later appeared on the show twice more, in “Let it Be Me” in season two and “The Scent of Roses” in season four.
In season 2, Patricia McPherson, who played the role of Bonnie Barstow, was replaced by Rebecca Holden, who played April Curtis. She became the new KITT specialist.
A change in a relationship also took place between Devon and Michael. Devon was always angry and arguing with Michael, but their friendship became substantial and less formal for the second season. Surprisingly, Michael does not “play with love” as much in April as Bonnie does.
In season 3, KITT’s dashboard gets redesigned and gains new abilities. Patricia McPherson as Bonnie Barstow returns and remains until the end of the series.
Michael and Devon also become close friends and associates at this point, trusting one another enough to work and conspire in secret without informing KITT or Bonnie. KITT’s renegade prototype KARR reappears in the episode “KITT vs. KARR.” Paul Frees, a new voice actor, takes over for KARR’s original voice actor, Peter Cullen.
The show’s popularity started to decrease and was unfortunately canceled by the end of the season. After knowing that the show was coming to an end, Hasselhoff attempted to create a “series finale” and collaborated on the story “The Scent of Roses” with his wife, Catherine Hickland. The latter had previously played the role of Michael’s love interest Stephanie Mason. As the final episode, the network aired Voodoo Knight.
In addition to Bonnie, a new street mechanic was added to the cast. The most critical KITT feature added in the fourth season is “Super Pursuit Mode.” KITT could also be transformed into a convertible car. Both of the vehicles were built and designed by the customizer George Barris.
Bonnie Barstow, RC3, and the Knight Industries Two Thousand make their final appearances in this season. KITT made his last appearance in the Knight Rider franchise in the Made for TV film Knight Rider 2000.
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Interesting Facts about the Show
1. It Was a Mash-Up of the Lone Ranger and Classic Sci-Fi
Glen A. Larson got popular on television in the 1970s and 1980s as the creator of shows because of his roles as Battlestar Galactica and Magnum PI In 1982, one of his more unique ideas was realized in Knight Rider.
While a talking car that helps the police fight a vehicle may sound strange, the series is based on a more grounded TV classic. Larson said about the show that he wanted to do, “The Lone Ranger with a car.” “If you think about him riding across the Plains and going from one town to another to help law and order, then KITT becomes Tonto,” he added.
2. William Daniels Fought For KITT to Have More of a Personality
When William Daniels first started working on Knight Rider, KITT was designed to sound like a robot and made more cohesive than the character. Instead, Daniel recalls, “I saw an opportunity to make it fun and bright.” “KITT was supposed to have some kind of human expression.” As the series progressed, KITT began to relax and showcase Daniels’ natural beauty.
3. Larson Got a Massive Cut from the Merch
Larson’s business acumen and creativity were rewarded more than everyone else’s dreams. He earned a large portion of merchandising sales revenue when negotiating with Universal Studios. Larson has significantly benefited from the fame of Knight Rider, which took a long time after the show was canceled.
Larson said, “You’ve got the best deal in television history.” “As a writer/creator, I share profits with all toys, models, T-shirts, etc., in the studio.” These kinds of deals are now obsolete, as Larson points out, because “it was only before the studios realized how profitable the merchandising would be.
4. David Hasselhoff and William Daniels Did Not Meet until the Show’s Christmas Party
Although David and William made a horrible duo on screen, they were not seen in the room during the show’s production. When the Knight rider was already a great actor, they met at a Christmas party for the show. Hasselhoff told CBS, “A young man approached my desk and said, ‘Hello, I’m William Daniels, playing KITT.” And I said, ‘My name is David Hasselhoff, and I’m playing Michael.
5. Daniels Wasn’t Featured In the Credits as KITT
In every Knight Rider run, the name of William Daniels does not appear on the opening or closing credits. Another story says that Daniels wanted the audience to believe that the car had a purpose in keeping the mystery. The program failed when Daniels became known as KITT’s voice on the streets where he lived.
6. Daniels Worked For Less Than an Hour on Each Episode
Even though his performance as KITT was crucial for the show’s success, Daniels was a long way from the set when he recorded his lines. “I finished an episode in about 45 minutes.” ‘I never watched the episode while doing the voice-over,” Daniels explained.
“I’d have the pages involving KITT and not the entire show.” Those pages would contain David’s dialogue followed by KITT’s responses.” Daniels’ method entailed reading Hasslehoff’s line in a loud voice in the recording booth and responding to them as KITT.
Knight Rider was the most popular show of the 1980s due to a unique combination of a quirk of Glen A. Larson’s contract and a chance meeting on the plane. The performance and the fantastic adventures of Michael Knight, a modern-day crime-fighter, fascinated people a lot. This is why it got so popular. However, after some time, the shows got canceled due to the decrease in popularity.