David Hasselhoff proved to be star material when he took on the role of Michael Knight in the 1982 television series, Knight Rider. While the series was not the first to feature fast cars doing stunts or buddy cop dynamics, it was the first to make the car the buddy. The secondary star of the series, K.I.T.T. or the Knight Industries Two Thousand, was the most sophisticated computer on four wheels. William Daniels provided the voice for the suped-up modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
Originally Michael Long was a detective for the Los Angelos Police Department; however, his life turned sideways after he was betrayed and shot in the head by Tanya Walker. Wilton Knight helped save Michael’s life, giving him a new face in the process as a means of protecting him. He also hoped that Michael would become his knight for justice and join the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG) that he was founding. This organization would use Knight Industries’ assets to protect the innocent. Agreeing to the offer, Michael left his old life and became Michael Knight.
His strongest asset and best friend was the Knight Industries Two Thousand, which housed a sentient AI program dedicated to protecting the peace. Beyond the sophisticated microchip powering KITT’s intelligence, the car had a large range of features including a molecular bonded shell to protect it from damage. The car also came equipped with gadgets like a grappling hook and induction coil. He remained in contact with Michael Knight through a radio built into a wristwatch.
While the episode structure focused on the bond between Michael Knight and KITT, they did not work alone. FLAG kept a staff of mechanics and assistants available in the Mobile Command Center. They also remained in close contact with the leader of FLAG, Devon Miles.
Knight Rider quickly became a huge hit on television, shooting up in the ratings. Likewise, it was primed for merchandise including a toy line from Kenner. Kenner only created a small handful of Knight Rider toys in 1983. Most of the toy line consisted of various versions of KITT, from a small vehicle with a Turbo Booster ramp accessory to a larger radio-controlled version. There was even a Crash Set which included a Comtron truck.
One of the most desired parts of this toy line is the Voice Car that came with a Michael Knight action figure. Aside from offering the only way to obtain the action figure, the car featured voice lines from KITT in the show. Moreover, Kenner included a detailed interior that the figure could sit in.
More options for Knight Rider toys came from ERTL. Not only did ERTL have their AMT division cate a 1/25th scale KITT model, but they offered a diecast KITT toy. They also created a 1/25th scale die-cast version of the hero car.
Years after Knight Rider left television in 1986, a sequel made-for-television movie attempted to launch a sequel. Knight Rider 2000 brought back most of the original cast. While the movie attempted to hand the reigns over to Shawn McCormick and her team, it was poorly received.
While the next appearance of Knight Rider came in 1994 with Knight Rider 2010, another made-for-television movie, the franchise did not have a lasting return until 1997 with Team Knight Rider. Instead of the original format of a man and his car, this series featured an entire squad with advanced, AI-controlled vehicles. The five members strived to follow in the steps of Michael Knight, but the team dynamic didn’t hit the same way. Thus, the series lasted for only one season with a total of 22 episodes.
The next time that Knight Rider reappeared was in 2008, with both another made-for-television movie and series. The 2008 movie brought back Michael Knight as the father of Michael Tracuer, who learned to follow in his father’s footsteps. This movie directly led into the 2008 television series, which continued to follow the adventures of Michael Traceur. Once again, the revival series lasted one season. Though this series only aired 17 episodes before it vanished.
Knight Rider may not have returned in movies or television since 2008, but several toy lines have featured the famous car. For instance, KITT began appearing in Hot Wheels form in 2012. Hot Wheels has created several variations of the car, including a pursuit mode variant. They even added both KITT and KARR to the Elite Line in 2013 and 2014. Recently, Hot Wheels featured KITT as an SDCC exclusive in 2022.
In 2021, Joyride decided to return KITT to the limelight with a new toy car. This 1/18 scale die-cast vehicle included multiple electronics, including a scanner. Moreover, Jada Toys also produced a 1/32 scale model of the famous car around the same time.
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