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Merrick Takes The New KNIGHT RIDER TV Movie/Pilot Script For A Spin!!

Merrick here...
A few weeks back, NBC announced a TV movie/backdoor pilot aimed at re-launching the KNIGHT RIDER franchise. We subsequently reported that Glen Larson’s long-gestating film reboot of the concept was concurrently being positioned by The Weinstein Company. This is possible because NBC/Universal holds the television rights to the franchise, while Larson holds the film rights. I’m not sure what the current status of the feature film is…I haven’t heard anything conclusive one way or another. Although, I can tell you that NBC has a script for the two hour KNIGHT RIDER relaunch. And, I’ve read it. I thought you might be curious about what the network has in mind.


There’s good news and bad news, all of which depends on your perspective I suppose. Word is Larson’s film project is a ground up reworking of the KNIGHT RIDER mythos – which might appeal to folks who were passingly interested in the supercar concept, but didn’t really care for the original series too much. NBC’s television movie/backdoor pilot, on the other hand, is VERY MUCH A SEQUEL to the original David Hasselhoff series. It takes the heart and soul of KNIGHT RIDER, gives it a little more edge…a dash more intelligence (but not too much)…an often clever sense of wit...slicks it up a bit…and hits the ground running. Through most of David Andron’s teleplay, cursory allusions are made to a Trans-Am supercar from decades ago; Hasselhoff’s Michael Knight and K.I.T.T. have assumed something of an urban legend status. We don’t know what happened to them…or what became of their high-tech crime fighting exploits. However, in the last third (or so) of the script, this project’s relationship to the original KNIGHT RIDER series becomes startlingly evident. This isn’t handled in a tip-of-the-hat, affectionate homage sort of way, either. By the end of the show, we realize we’re watching a sequel…a continuation…grounded in the same “universe” as the original, only with new characters. And some…who aren’t so new. Is it fun? It’s fun. Is it great? It’s KNIGHT RIDER. KNIGHT RIDER (as a whole) is defined by cool cars doing dopey things, witty banter between an irascible driver and his supercomputer partner, and a frivolous lack of true jeopardy – hardly the stuff of lofty narrative. The same qualities are present here. There are also classically structured cliffhangers that lead us into commercials…we pick up right where we left off when returning from commercial breaks…in fact, the whole structure/feel of the show feels…80s. This is NOT to say the show is fully retro; it is decidedly modern in sensibility and technology. This is primarily evident in the conception of, and treatment of, the new K.I.T.T. car. Yes, the car still talks. I don’t know what voice they want to use…but references are made to the original KNIGHT RIDER theme music, and….given that this is a sequel…it’s safe to assume Wiliam Daniels (who voiced the original K.I.T.T.) would at least be considered. K.I.T.T. now guides its driver through situations remotely, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE style – using a Bluetooth-like device to communicate verbally with operatives while tapping into security camera video feeds. It uses high-end profiling software to locate (or evade) bad guys in a crowd. There’s a nifty cat and mouse sequence set in a casino…in which K.I.T.T. maneuvers its driver through a crowded room & away from the villains while cross-referencing badguy images lifted from surveillance footage that was snagged earlier. It seizes and controls technological infrastructures (like power lines, computer networks, door controls, etc.) to facilitate missions. It has an arsenal of portable tech human companions can use to this end…night vision devices and whatnot. It can camouflage itself (primarily a color shifting technology, although there is some physical manipulation involved) - appearing to be other cars (the sense is that they're usually roughly the same mass). K.I.T.T…is more like a Special Forces asset than a gimmick in this iteration. It runs on gasoline (with performance optimized to over 140mpg via solar-powered back-up, etc.). It’s very autonomous…in fact, it is more or less the “hero” of this piece until approx half way through the script. Its best sequence? There’s a moment when K.I.T.T. attempts to console someone who has lost her father. It’s a machine…an AI…and doesn’t know how to relate to raw emotions, so all it can do is try to be there for her by using (literally) textbook examples and research materials. K.I.T.T. feels very much like vintage Spock in this script. There’s a coldness to it, but also a sweet charm. New character include (but are not limited to)… MIKE TRACER: an ex Army Ranger, now disillusioned and disenfranchised. He’s a shitty gambler and an unsuccessful race car driver. He’s pulled into the world of K.I.T.T. because of his very special connection to the past KNIGHT RIDER incarnation. The first time we see him, he’s waking up in bed with a fabulous babe. A few minutes later, another one steps out of the restroom. CHARLES KAMEN: a designer of the “Knight Industries Two Thousand – K.I.T.T.”, once driven by Michael Knight. He’s recently finished the “Knight Industries Three Thousand – K.I.T.T.” – which is a very good thing when the shit hits the fan. At one point Mike calls Charles "insane" for trying to make a difference with his nutty car. "This world is insane" says Charles. "This is the definition of sanity." SARAH KAMEN: Charles’ daughter. She and Mike had a thing going a while back, and discover they’ve been unnecessarily alienated for years due to bad timing and simple misunderstandings. CARRIE RAVAI: a bad-ass FBI agent. The first time we see her, she’s waking up in bed with a fabulous babe. AMIR and ZION: Middle Eastern enforcers/collectors who constantly lean on Tracer to pay back money he borrowed. Tracer doesn’t have it. WELTHER, BELLE, SMOKE, SAM, and CROSS: Think in terms of DIE HARD villains mixed with Private Military Contractors. They’re after data about something called “Legion”. Like the Rabbit’s Foot in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, we learn little about it what Legion actually is…but people will do anything to get it, and the government is mortified it’ll fall into the wrong hands. Like K.I.T.T., Legion is a Charles Kamen project. While they’ve yet to find the Legion details they seek on harddrives stolen from Kamen, the baddies have managed to decipher one critical bit of information: tech specs on K.I.T.T., and how to shut it down. As you might be able to tell…there’s been a slight tweak to the general thrust of KNIGHT RIDER. This story itself is relatively small in scale, but it's large in conceptual scope. It’s…immediate. There’s an implication that the (possible) further adventures of Tracer, K.I.T.T. and the Knight Industries team will be global in nature. Blackriver…this installment’s big bad (think: Halliburton) is still in play when the script wraps up, as is THE CLIENT – the mysterious personality who wants Legion for whatever nefarious reasons. The one element I find most agreeable about this script: it’s perfectly happy to be "fun", never thinks too highly of itself, shows a vast respect for its source material while gently nudging it into a different decade…different century…different millennia (boy that’s weird to think about). Brisk, breezy fun that’s smart enough not to insult, offering enough clever twists as not to bore. Could be worse. Could be a lot worse.

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