Knight Rider

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9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17
NBC


The revival of "Knight Rider" on Sunday night should gladden the hearts of viewers, at least those employed by Ford. For the rest of us, the two-hour film -- really, an elaborate commercial around which bits of story are sprinkled -- was an exercise in prolonged car sickness.

The original series featured a super-smart Pontiac Trans-Am with a computer voice supplied by William Daniels and the ability to go fast, look cool and heave smoke bombs. In this sequel, the customized car is a Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 KR with a voice supplied by Val Kilmer. It still can go fast and look cool, but now it's the viewers who do the heaving.

The movie stars Deanna Russo as Sarah, the daughter of scientist Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison), who had been working on KITT 3000, the latest supercar. At the same time, an ethnically diverse gang of four killers are trying to steal the technology and, potentially, sell it to some international megalomaniac.

The car escapes on its own and speeds away to pick up Sarah and then her former boyfriend, Mike Tracer (Justin Bruening), both of whom are then whisked back to the scene of the crime to save the day. Sydney Tamiia Poitier is cast in the thankless and utterly unnecessary role of an FBI agent.

In this high-octane exercise in product placement, several of the commercials repeat elements from the movie. It's not confusing, but it is a stark warning that our ability to fast-forward through ads may have dire consequences, such as NBC's clumsy and witless effort here to force-feed us commercial messages.

Subtle product placement is one thing, but in "Knight Rider" it becomes so heavy-handed that it actually alters entire scenes. A car chase, for example, runs on ad nauseum presumably because both cars are Ford products and it wouldn't do to show either of them crash. Meanwhile, the Mustang logo gets displayed so often, the movie almost qualifies as a western.

The best performance was given by the car. The actors, particularly Bruening, are leaden and laughable, but that's inevitable given Dave
Andron's silly, cliche-ridden dialog. Even the cameo appearance by David Hasselhoff, star of the original "Knight Rider" series, looks like it was grafted onto the script as an afterthought. You know you're in trouble when that obnoxious superimposed NBC Olympic logo with a plug for "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad" becomes a welcome distraction.

To entice viewers, NBC set up a "Ford 'Knight Rider' Sweepstakes" in which four cars are to be given away. Considering how hard it is to sit through this semi-infomercial, every viewer should be rewarded with a set of wheels.

KNIGHT RIDER
Universal Media Studios and Dutch Oven Prods.
Executive producers: Glen A. Larson, Doug Liman, David Bartis
Co-executive producer/drector: Steve Shill
Supervising producer/writer: Dave Andron
Producer: Sean Ryerson
Co-producers: Geoff Garrett, Sara Fischer
Based on characters by: Glen A. Larson
Director of photography: Jamie Barber
Production designer: Rich Toyon
Editors: Stewart Schill, William B. Stich
Music: Christopher Tyng
Set decorator: Lisa Alkofer
Casting: Brett Greenstein, Collin Daniel, Tess Sanchez
Cast:
Mike Tracer: Justin Bruening
Sarah Graiman: Deanna Russo
Carrie Rivai: Sydney Tamiia Poitier
Charles Graiman: Bruce Davison
Michael Knight: David Hasselhoff

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