Knight Rider

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Airdate: 8-9 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 24

NBC

Few projects so far in 2008 have received the kind of pummeling that the "Knight Rider" movie from NBC absorbed from critics when it premiered in February. And so naturally, it became the highest-rated made-for-TV movie in three years with adults 18-49, generating a 5.0 rating/12 share. And just as predictably, the warm public reception bought the kitschy-yet-iconic '80s series about the talking car new life in series form after a modestly successful 1982-86 run.

Of course, everything that made the original fun and unique has effectively been scrubbed away from this new edition that's all about high-tech gadgetry, speed and sex and only the tiniest shred about story and personality. The gambit surrounding KITT the talking car is no longer a gimmick so much as a device to attach a James Bond-ish edge to an hour devoid of soul.

Instead of David Hasselhoff, we get newcomer Justin Bruening, who's all beefcake eroticism and white-boy innocence. His first love is with KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand), now equipped with AI (artificial intelligence) and able to do everything but dishes and windows (oh wait, them too). But whereas KITT in the original was voiced by the agreeably cranky William Daniels, now he's done with dispassionate loquaciousness -- think HAL 9000 from "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- by (gulp) Val Kilmer. And though there's a smoldering chemistry between Bruening's character and his fellow undercover operative (played with coquettish sexiness by Deanna Russo of "NCIS"), the story clearly ain't what this reinvented "Knight Rider" is about. It's all gadgetry, visual FX, holograms and sophisticated imagery as imagined by new showrunner Gary Scott Thompson ("Las Vegas").

It's difficult enough to survive in the ultracompetitive primetime environment these days even if you're masterfully produced and artistically accomplished ("Mad Men"). So you've got to figure that it doesn't bode well for "Knight Rider" given the fact its human stars --which also include Sydney Tamilia Poitier, Paul Campbell, Bruce Davison and Yancy Arias -- are eclipsed by computerized graphics and an emotionless hunk of sleek metal.

Production: Universal Media Studios and Dutch Oven Prods.

Cast: Justin Bruening, Deanna Russo, Sydney Tamilia Poitier, Paul Campbell, Yancy Arias, Bruce Davison, Smith Cho, Paula Garces, Mark Adair-Rios, Yorgo Constantine.

Executive producers: Gary Scott Thompson, Dave Bartis, Doug Liman, Matt Pyken, Glen A. Larson.

Based on characters created by: Glen A. Larson

Writer: Gary Scott Thompson. D

irector: David Solomon

Co-executive producer: Rob Wright.
Supervising producers: Sean Ryerson, Dave Andron.
Co-producers: Sara Fischer, Julie Herlocker.
Director of photography: Jamie Barber.
Production designer: Richard Toyon.
Costume designer: Jennifer Bryan.
Editors: David Lebowitz, Peter Basinski, Ray Daniels.
Music: Christopher Tyng.
Casting: Liberman/Patton, Jennifer Lare.


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