"Knight Rider: a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man...who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law."
Knight Rider (1982-1986) was a ratings success in its own day and a pop culture symbol that has endured to our time, producing several sequels and revivals since the flashing red lights of K.I.T.T. first crossed television screens. Let's take a look at some things you might not know about this famous show.
1. Knight Rider was conceived of as a modern remake of The Lone Ranger. One mysterious individual, aided primarily by his beloved ride, fights a private war against injustice.
2. But the initial impetus to create it came from a 1979 episode of B.J. and the Bear. This 1979-1981 television show focused on the life and struggles of a trucker and his pet chimpanzee against corrupt law enforcement officers. One particular episode entitled “Cain’s Cruiser” featured a technologically advanced police cruiser. Knight Rider producer Richard Lindheim saw potential for a show about such a vehicle and started developing the idea.
3. NBC initially hesitated to pick up Knight Rider -- or at least one that included K.I.T.T. talking. They had memories of a 1965-66 sitcom called My Mother the Car, regarded by many television critics and historians as the worst show in television history. That show featured a car that was the reincarnation of its owner’s deceased mother.
4. K.I.T.T., which stands for Knight Industries Two Thousand, was originally named T.A.T.T. for Trans Am Two Thousand because the design was based on the Pontiac Trans Am.
5. The stunt work was hard on the cars, and the show typically ruined four to nine each season. The Trans Ams were sold by GM to the producers for $1 each. Each one cost about $18,000 to modify into K.I.T.T.
6. Two of these cars were modified just for jumps. They were given a lightweight fiberglass body, stock car quality shock absorbers, a stripped interior, and a powerful engine. Each one weighed only 1,500 pounds, thus making the jumps easier.
7. All of those cars, however, were the stunt cars. There was one "hero car" which was used for the non-stunt scenes with David Hasselhoff (Michael Knight). This vehicle was designed by Michael Sheffe, a toymaker for Mattel. Sheffe and his crew were given only two weeks to design and build K.I.T.T. before shooting began. It was barely completed in time before shooting because Scheffe and his team had no time to order custom parts. They had to purchase materials locally or fabricate items themselves with equipment and materials on hand.
8. The pulsating red lights on the front end of K.I.T.T. were taken directly from the Cylons of classic Battlestar Galactica. They modulated according to eight different pre-programmed patterns that could be varied with whatever mood directors wanted K.I.T.T. to express.
9. In some scenes, K.I.T.T. drives himself. When that happens, the driver was actually in the backseat driving blind, or K.I.T.T. was being towed on a cable.
10. Although K.I.T.T. and Michael Knight had many conversations, William Daniels, the voice of K.I.T.T., rarely interacted with David Hasselhoff. Daniels worked in a soundbooth alone without even complete episode scripts. He simply read his lines, which were then mixed into the episode’s sound. In fact, Hasselhoff and Daniels only saw each other at the show's Christmas parties.
11. K.I.T.T. was originally conceived of as having a robotic temperament devoid of personality. Daniels refused to participate in the show unless he was able to develop K.I.T.T. as a character.
12. The writers had K.I.T.T. destroyed and rebuilt during the third season because commercially available cars started to have K.I.T.T.-like features, such as vocalized notifications (e.g. “Your oil temperature is too high.”)
13. The episode “Give Me Liberty...Or Give Me Death” featured a scene in which Michael Knight and K.I.T.T. raced an orange 1969 Dodge Charger. This was an homage to The Dukes of Hazzard, a contemporary show with a somewhat similar premise. During the episode (29:30), K.I.T.T. jumps over the Charger.
14. In the Knight Rider story, Michael Knight, before he went underground and assumed his secret crime fighting role, was engaged to a woman named Stevie Mason. This aspect of the character’s life was developed in the episode “White Bird”, in which Stevie was played by actress Catherine Hickland. At the end of the season wrap party, David Hasselhoff proposed to Hickland by inviting her to open the hood of a cake made to look like K.I.T.T. Inside was an engagement ring.
15. Although it wasn't, strictly speaking, a crossover, a two-part episode of Diff'rent Strokes took place on the set of Knight Rider. During that episode, the characters played by Gary Coleman and Shavar Ross sneaked onto the set of Knight Rider and almost got killed.
Source: Huth, Joe, IV and Richie F. Levine. Knight Rider Legacy. New York: iUniverse Star, 2004. Print.
Images: NBC, ABC.