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Knight Rider, Half-Naked People, Car Chases, and Explosions

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Okay, yes I watch it every week, and no I'm never going to like it, so you can look forward to more of these columns, but my goodness, did you watch Knight Rider last night? I just don't understand the show. Well, that's not entirely true, I do understand — it's entirely about half-naked people, car chases, and explosions. Any and all plot is issued purely in support of the achievement one of the above three goals.

Now, half-naked people, car chases, and explosions are (when kept to the fictional world) all good things. I'm not complaining about that, to do so would be foolish. As a child I commented that all the Beach Boys sang about was cars, girls, and surfing only to be told, "Well, what else is there?" Much the same can be said here — what else is there? What would you rather see on TV?

Yup, that's the problem, there is an answer to that — compelling drama or funny comedy. Knight Rider's insistence that plot is merely a means to an end negates the very true idea that compelling drama or funny comedy can against alongside half-naked people, explosions, and car chases. Last night they actually made the foolish attempt to draw a parallel between themselves and one of the greatest cinematic heroes of all time, James Bond, in order to show that they were just doing what Bond movies have done for over forty years.

This notion was put forward when Michael met up with a female British secret agent from MI-6, Michael quipped that perchance he should refer to her as Jane Bond. Then, when KITT did something super-car like Michael again recalled Bond, suggesting that he'd like to see Bond's car perform a similar maneuver.

There is, of course, a comparison to be made between Knight Rider's half-naked people, car chases, and explosions and James Bond's half-naked people, car chases, and explosions. After all, they both have half-naked people, car chases, and explosions. However, the worst Bond film (say, Tomorrow Never Dies) is still head and shoulders better than the best Knight Rider episode (we're still waiting on that one's appearance).

Even in Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan's second outing which focused on a media mogul, Elliot Carver, trying to start a war between China and Britain so that he can sell more papers, the plot, no matter how foolish, is explored. A lot of time in the movie is spent on Carver's motives and the exact nature of his plans. Last night's Knight Rider, as with all previous episodes, dispenses with those sorts of mundane things in under ten seconds. In a very brief statement while on the way to stop the villain, KITT performed a background check and told Michael that the bad guy was a mercenary bank robber not a revolutionary.

The plots may be equally foolish, but even the least of the James Bond films makes an attempt to sell you on it, while Knight Rider dispenses with any such notion. The difference is not one of a television versus film format, but rather of producer intent. The producers of Knight Rider simply don't seem to care what the plot is as long as it leads to visual stimulation for the audience. The producers of the Bond films actually want to tell a good story in addition to having good visuals. And that, my friends, makes all the difference.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://blogcritics.org/ Phillip Winn

    Also, most of the Bond films are now dismissed as mindless fluff compared to the new Daniel Craig reboot. So even if Knight Rider managed to hit their target, it’d be a passé target!