Then And Now: The Iconic TV Show Knight Rider

Who is more well-known, David Hasselhoff or the television show Knight Rider? Well, neither would be popular without one another. Hasselhoff was the main character who drove a talking car (yes, a talking car) on the show. Knight Rider was heavily popular in its 1980s prime. But where are the stars, (and the car) now?

The Legend

David Hasselhoff (“The Hoff”) is so popular that he often plays himself in movies and on TV. He is a common household name. The Maryland native went on to do many well-known roles after Knight Rider. But his role as Michael Knight, where he portrays a crime fighter who was assisted by his talking car KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), is what put Hasselhoff on the map.

The actor, singer, and producer has been involved in many movies such as Dodgeball, Click, and Euro Trip. He is also known for starring and producing the very popular TV series Bay Watch.

Chug, Chug, Chug!

Some people tend to ignore the label on the back of a bottle of booze that says, “Enjoy Responsibly”. Remember that time back in 2007 when David Hasselhoff tried to drunkenly wrestle a cheeseburger with his mouth? Yeah, he had a pretty serious drinking problem for a while there.

It wasn’t until his 16-year-old daughter released a video of him laying on the floor trying to eat a burger while speaking gibberish that Hasselhoff decided to get his act together. As of now, it seems as though Hasselhoff is on the wagon, riding it like a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am.

Wild Woman

Patricia McPherson is best known as KITT’s (the talking car) mechanic, Bonnie Barstow, in the TV series Knight Rider. She was present in every season (except season two) until the series ended in 1986. She didn’t do much else within showbiz as she retired from acting five years later in 1991.

Besides pretending to be a mechanic in Knight Rider McPherson is a college graduate. The now-63-year-old graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in advertising. But wait, there’s more! McPherson decided to focus her time and energy focusing on preserving the environment and the rainforest.

Kelly Blue Book Value

“Does it come in canary red?” No, all black, sorry. The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, otherwise known as Knight Industries Two Thousand, or “KITT”, could be your newest dream car (although it does not have an auxiliary input for your iPod). The KITT is fully loaded with everything you wish your Camry had.

The car’s artificial intelligence was capable of speaking, learning, thinking, and had arcade games. But this contraption was not cheap. In the show’s universe, the vehicle cost an estimated $11,400,000 to make. That was in 1982. With inflation to present day, that would be roughly $27,123,021. Pocket change, right?

My Bank Account Hates Me

Don’t scratch the paint! It’s a good thing that the Knight Industries Two Thousand did not actually cost $11,400,000 to make. The car went through many stunts throughout the series. High-speed car chases and acrobatic maneuvering take their toll. With all of those crazy stunts to electrify the audience, a lot of cars became damaged, causing the show to go through an average of about six cars per season. Get out your calculators.

Knight Rider ran for four seasons, that is roughly $273,600,000 in fictional damages to the talking car– thank you, taxpayers. You just can’t put a price tag on protecting society.

Don’t Toy With Me

Don’t act like you didn’t want David Hasselhoff and KITT figurines. These were a hot commodity in the 1980s during the Knight Rider heyday. The series spawned a series of action figures and toy cars (of course they talked). There were board games, video games, posters, replica license plates and other miscellaneous items.

With the holiday season around the corner, these Knight Rider gems seem like a no-brainer for gift ideas. But don’t be thrifty with your gift-giving. Buy the real car, not the toy version, if you really want to make a good impression.

I Dream Of Geena

Before Geena Davis won an Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actress” in The Accidental Tourist, she made her television debut on Knight Rider. The now-60-year-old actress appeared in a season two episode “K.I.T.T. the Cat”. She portrays a cat burglar (apparently she is not a dog person) named Grace Fallen.

After her brief role as the cat burglar, she went on to do many acting roles with numerous award nominations. In 2006 she won a Golden Globe for “Best Actress- Television Series Drama” for her lead role in Commander in Chief.

Double Whammy

Before Rebecca Holden became the computer whiz April Curtis on Knight Rider, she was an actress in commercials and a model for magazines. Her first appearance on television was a guest spot on Three’s Company. But it wasn’t until her role in Knight Rider that she obtain widespread recognition. Although, besides the acting, Holden has some other tricks up her sleeves.

She is a classically trained vocalist and musician as well. Holden received her degree in voice and piano at the University of North Texas. And she is legit! Her music has been featured in CMT and TNN. If only Holden could fly, she would be perfect.

Hasselhoff Is Fire

David Hasselhoff became well-known for his character Michael Knight in Knight Rider, but that was not what made him into a huge star and a sex symbol. It was his portrayal of Mitch Buchannon on “Baywatch” that did so. This is really what made Hasselhoff a household name and not a ‘one hit wonder’. Although the NBC series only lasted one season, Hasselhoff revamped the show (with his own funding) two years later in 1991.

Hasselhoff felt that Baywatch had a lot of potential. And his hunch was correct. The show ended up lasting 11 years before concluding in 2001. The show became a huge success, especially internationally.

Mr. Soap Opera

Peter Parros played RC3 (Reginald Cornelius III) in Knight Rider. RC3 was a vigilante in the show and eventually caught the eyes of KITT and Michael Knight, earning himself a spot on the team. However, Parros retired from his fictional crime-fighting career to take begin his career in the world of soap opera. Parros became most recognized for his almost decade-long character Dr. Ben Harris on As the World Turns on CBS.

He is also known for his role in the Tyler Perry TV series The Haves and the Have Nots. Other than his main roles, Parros has made guest appearances in multiple TV shows ranging from Seinfeld to Law & Order. The man is everywhere.

George “KITT” Fenny

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Although you never see his face, William Daniels plays the talking car in Knight Rider. The former president of the Screen Actors Guild and (of course) Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World is the voice of the Knight Industries Two Thousand vehicle.

Daniels was KITT from 1982 to 1988. Daniels explains his duties in The Toronto Star: “My duties on Knight Riderare very simple. I do it in about an hour and a half. I’ve never met the cast. I haven’t even met the producer.” Most recently, Daniels appeared as George Feeny (Mr. Feeny) in Girl Meets World.

Battlestar Glen Larson

Television producer and writer Glen Larson is best known for his work with Knight Rider. But he is also known for other television series such as Quincy, M.E., Battlestar Galactica, The Fall Guy, and Magnum, P.I. Larson is also a Grammy and Emmy nominee.

His budget for Battlestar Galactica was set at an insane amount of $1 million per episode. And that was in 1978. Unfortunately, the show only lasted one season (24 episodes). But the show was later remade in 2004, ten years before Larson died of Esophageal cancer at the age of 77 in 2014.

The Resemblance is Uncanny

If you are looking to get a mustache and goatee on the fly, call up David Hasselhoff. A little bit of glue goes a long way. In Knight Rider Hasselhoff had double duty as he played two characters. Besides his role as the protagonist Michael Knight, he also portrayed Garthe Knight the villain.

The evil Garthe Knight drove around a semi truck called Goliath (his version of Knight Industries Two Thousand) to make Michael Knight’s life miserable. Although the antagonist Hasselhoff portrayed was quite popular, he was hesitant to do two roles at once. So they eventually killed off his character. Easy fix.

The Imposter

It is too bad that Garthe Knight drives that clunky semi truck around. He could (and should) be cruising around in KITT’s evil twin vehicle KARR (Knight Automated Roving Robot). The car was supposed to be a prototype of K.I.T.T. Unfortunately, KARR had a faulty personality as it began to function as a villain.

Instead of sending the thing to the junkyard, it falls into the hands of evil. The KARR episode “Trust Doesn’t Rust” was popular enough to earn the car another appearance. Now, you may be wondering if William Daniels does the voice as well. No, Daniels is no villain.

Team Knight Rider

Knight Rider without David Hasselhoff is like The Terminator without Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or Mac and Cheese without cheese. It just does not work (or taste good). The spin-off and David Hasselhoff-less Team Knight Rider lasted for 22 one-hour episodes (one season) due to poor ratings. TKR was created by writer/producers Rick Copp and David A. Goodman and was based off the original Knight Rider.

The show featured five vehicles in which played a specific role throughout the season. Each had artificial intelligence capabilities similar to the Knight Industries Two Thousand. But Where is David Hasselhoff?

Take The Bait, Man

The name Jason Bateman may ring a bell. His first role was in 1981’s Little House on the Prairie. Although, he is most known now as Michael Bluth in the comedy series Arrested Development and movies such as Horrible Bosses. But few remember him for his role as Doug Wainwright in Knight Rider.

The episode in which he appears, “Lost Knight,” has the young Bateman becoming friends with Knight Industries Two Thousand when the car separates from Michael Knight. Bateman went on to win a Golden Globe for his role in Arrested Development as well as multiple award nominations.

Go For Miles

“Hey Hasselhoff, this is Edward Mulhare and I will be your new boss.” Edward Mulhare portrayed Michael Knight’s boss, Devon Miles in Knight Rider. He is also known for starring in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The Irishman began his career in the early 1940s as a theater performer.

He is best well-known for his Broadway character as Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady.” Born in 1923, the man never married. His final role, before passing away from lung cancer in May 1997, was coincidentally a Baywatch Nights episode alongside David Hasselhoff.

Back in My Day

John Richard Basehart’s career began in the late 1940s. He is known for his award-winning role in the 1956 film Moby Dick and his portrayal of Harriman Nelson on the television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. One of Basehart’s last roles was on Knight Rider as Wilton Knight, the billionaire behind the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG).

Although he appears on the pilot episode, he is the voice narrator to the beginning credits of the series. Before dying at the age of 70, Basehart announced the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympic in Los Angeles.

Give Me More

After the four short seasons of Knight Rider ended in 1986, fans could not get enough. In 1991, Knight Rider 2000 served as a sequel the television series by NBC. With a hefty budget of $65 million, the creation was made as a pilot to spawn off a new series, but the idea was canned, despite handsome ratings.

The movie takes place in the future (the year 2000) where stun guns are the only means of protection allowed by law enforcement. The Knight Industries Two Thousand gets a makeover as the “Knight 400”. The movie received mediocre reviews.

Let’s Try This Again

They say that “third time’s a charm”. But no one is saying that about the 2008 Knight Rider. After one season of 17 episodes (and a movie), the series fell short of its predecessors. The latest series takes place 25 years later where Michael Knight’s son Mike Traceur, becomes the lead protagonist and driver of the new KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand).

The new KITT is no longer a Pontiac Trans Am, but a more meat-headed Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang. Lasting only for that one season, the series could never live up to the original Hasselhoff edition.

The End of the Road

In 2008 NBC gave Knight Rider the green light to shoot nine more episodes. The first four episodes were successful in ratings, however, the ratings took a nosedive in November, showing very low interest. The creative team decided to bring the storyline closer to what it was when the show started, focusing on the main character and the car.

But this decision led to three cast members being laid off. The final episode aired on February 25, 2009. The ’80s version remains the most popular and still resonates with fans. Knight Rider has also inspired similar TV series and films, including The Highway Man, and Street Hawk.

Hasselhoff Was The Most-Watched Man In TV History

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Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

It might come as a surprise, but David Hasselhoff is a Guinness World Record holder. He has the distinction of being the most watched man on television all-time. A lot of this was thanks to his role as Michael Knight in Knight Rider, but his role as an LA County lifeguard in Baywatch certainly didn’t hurt his numbers.

At his peak in the mid-90s, the Hoff was easily getting over a billion TV views a week. Think about how many TV executives would kill to even have one-tenth the amount of viewership as there was in the 1990s. That’s crazy.

The K.I.T.T Was Incredibly Expensive

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Jörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images

The car that was used as K.I.T.T throughout the show was actually a customized version of a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. The designer of the car ended up making a lot of different changes on the vehicle in order to spice it up for the show. There were lots of gadgets and gizmos thrown into the interior of the car which included an artificially intelligent electronic computer module in the front.

In fact, the car was so popular there were dozens of action figures, board games, and video games released that were inspired by the KITT and Knight Rider as a whole.

NBC Wasn’t Always On Board

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Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

As was mentioned earlier in this article, TV networks would kill to have the ratings that shows like Knight Rider had. You might be surprised to find out that NBC almost didn’t pick it up originally because it was a show that revolved around a talking car. NBC executives were having flashbacks to the 1960s when they had another show with a talking car called My Mother the Car which ended up being one of the worst shows of all time.

If only NBC could’ve foreseen just how well Knight Rider would do which kind of paved the way for the animated movie Cars which has been incredibly successful.

Knight Rider Was Originally Based On A Western Movie

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Twitter / @sasan4991
Twitter / @sasan4991

The Lone Ranger was one of the major inspirations to Knight Rider. If you really think about it, that shouldn’t be all that surprising. The Lone Ranger was a character who first appeared on the radio in the early 1930s as a Robin Hood-esque type character. He relied on his horse for basically everything he needed to do.

Michael Knight also strived to help people out as much as possible. His main goal was to achieve the greater good, whatever that meant. He was fighting crime and relied on his car instead of his horse. The resemblance is actually uncanny.

The Theme Song Has Been Sampled By Some Prominent Musicians

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Cooper Neill/Getty Images for Pandora
Cooper Neill/Getty Images for Pandora

The Knight Rider theme song is kind of iconic. Okay, it’s not just kind of iconic, it IS iconic. So, it’s the fact that there have been a lot of people trying to sample off of it isn’t all that shocking. It was sampled in the song “Clock Strikes” by Timbaland and Magoo. That was followed up by another rapper, Busta Rhymes who put it in his song “Fire It Up” and then it was also heard on the song “Mundian to Bach Ke” by Panjabi MC.

If you’re a fan of Mark Wahlberg, you probably heard the song in the movie Ted as well.

They Had Some Diff’rent Strokes

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In 1984, “Hooray for Hollywood”, a two-part episode of Diff’rent Strokes, David Hasselhoff and KITT appeared when rescuing Arnold Jackson (Gary Coleman) and Dudely Ramsay from a near on-set incident while visiting Universal Studios Hollywood. In the episodes, Arnold and Dudely recently moved to Los Angeles and decided they wanted to find the Knight Rider set.

They sneak on, Find KITT and realize they’re in a car that’s supposed to blow up in that episode. They almost realize it too late and get blown off of this planet.

They’ve Also Infiltrated The Auto industry

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Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

In 2012, and 2013, General Electric ran an advertising campaign called “Brilliant Machines”, about the coming generation of General Electric robotic devices. The campaign was built around famous robots from the movies and TV and KITT was prominently featured. One ad, narrated by William Daniels, showed KITT in Autocruise mode racing a GE diesel-electric railroad engine hauling a freight train.

Also, in 2008, GPS manufacturer Mio Technology announced the release of a Knight Rider-themed GPS unit for a price of $270. The unit has the original Knight Rider logo printed above the display and features the voice of William Daniels.

Syndication Of Knight Rider Came Back But Has Since Stopped

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Giorgos Georgiou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Giorgos Georgiou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Knight Rider was first syndicated in the Fall of 1986. Stations were initially offered either the original hour-long format or the severely-condensed into a half-hour format. Reruns were later syndicated on USA Network in 1994, Sci-Fi Channel in 2003, Sleuth in 2005, and on G4 in 2012.

The series had originally been available for streaming on Netflix. Now, the first season is available on Hulu with some episodes are available on NBC’s web site. They also re-released all four seasons on DVD and Blu-ray in 2016, but like, who actually watches DVD anymore?

Let’s Dive Into The Details Of KITT

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Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

KITT is essentially an advanced supercomputer on wheels, but, what does that even mean? The “brain” of KITT is the Knight 2000 microprocessor which is the center of a “self aware” cybernetic logic module that allowed KITT to think, learn, communicate and interact with humans.

He always had an ego that was easy to bruise and displayed very sensitive, but kind and possessed a dry sense of humor. There was an in-dash entertainment system that can play music and video, and run various computer programs including arcade games which Michael Knight would sometimes indulge in while KITT was driving.

The Armor Plating Was Unpenetrable

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Nick Obank / Barcroft Media / Getty Images
Nick Obank / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

There’s an episode that outlines the fact that KITT also has 1,000 megabits of memory with one nanosecond access time. KITT’s “Alpha Circuit” is part of his main control system which allows the CPU to drive the car. The time KITT’s evil twin KARR spent submerged in water damaged his Alpha Circuit which required to have an operator to control his Turbo Boost function.

KITT is armored with “Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000 MBS” plating which protects him from almost all forms of conventional firearms and explosive devices. He would only be harmed by heavy artillery and rockets. Even then, the blast usually left the body intact.

The KITT Medical Scanner

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Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

KITT has a medical scanner that includes an electrocardiograph (ECG). The medical scanner can monitor the vital signs of individuals and display them on his monitors. It could indicate such a condition as if they were injuries, poisoned, undergoing stress or other emotional behaviors. KITT could even monitor Michael’s physical activity through sensors inside the driver seat.

KITT was powered by turbine engine primary fuelled by hydrogen gas. However, his complex fuel processor allows him to run on any combustible liquid, even regular gasoline. KITT’s actual fuel requirements and efficiency ratings were classified, but, KITT mentioned his fuel economy was at least 65 miles per gallon.

The Ultaphonic Chemical Analyzer

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Bildquelleullstein bild via Getty Images
Bildquelleullstein bild via Getty Images

KITT has a retractable tray with an electron scanner that could analyze the chemical properties of various materials. It could even scan fingerprints and read ballistic information off bullets and compare these with a police database. Aside from the scanning tray, the system could also analyze chemical information gathered from KITT’s exterior sensors.

He also has the capability to release oxygen into his driver compartment and provide air to passengers if he was ever submerged in water or buried in the earth. This is also used to overcome the effects of certain drugs.

The KITT Has Made Its Rounds

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Jo Hale/Getty Images
Jo Hale/Getty Images

KITT has accompanied Hasselhoff in a lot of showings and performances starting all the way back in 1985. Wherever the Hoff was, the KITT was too. It followed him to a performance at Disneyland in 1985, the KITT was seen on America’s Got Talent in season one. Adam and Jamie from the TV show MythBusters tested whether KITT could, in fact, drive up the ramp into the mobile garage (known as the Rook) or whether upon hitting the ramp he would instantly accelerate into the truck through the wall.

KITT was also voiced by Seth MacFarlane when it appeared with Hasselhoff in a Comic-Con segment from the unrated version of the 2015 comedy Ted 2.

The 2008 Update Was Massive

the car
Wikimedia / Commons
Wikimedia / Commons

When they decided to update Knight Rider in 2008, that also included a brand new KITT that would reflect the times more accurately. The KITT changed from a Pontiac Trans Am over to a Shelby GT500KR and differs in a lot of different ways.

The 2008, KITT utilizes nano-technology allowing the car’s outer shell to change colors and morph itself into other car forms temporarily. It can turn into two different types of Ford F-150s, and one form of a Ford E-150 van. The car can engage in an Attack Mode which features scissor/conventional hybrid doors which allows it to increase speed and use most of its gadgets.

You Don’t Want To Mess With The KITT

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Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

It possessed anti-missile flares that deployed from the rear bumper. Disk-like objects that when dispensed produce an intense heat source to deter heat-seeking projectiles. There was an interior tear gas dispenser that was used for anti-theft and defensive purposes.

The 2008 KITT can fill the cabin with tear gas to incapacitate a would-be thief. This KITT also had a directed laser energy device which was capable of destroying locks and other items that may end up getting in the way. There was a software program that was security built into this version of KITT that when activated, would turn it into a self-destructing bomb.

Glen A. Larson Got A Huge Cut Of The Merch Money

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Dana Nalbandian/WireImage
Dana Nalbandian/WireImage

Larson wasn’t just a creative mind, he was incredibly business-savvy as well. When he was negotiating his deal with Universal in regards to Knight Rider, he nabbed himself a huge chunk of the merchandising rights (which isn’t all that common for creators of TV shows back in the day).

With Knight Rider’s popularity sustaining itself for long after it went off the air, Larsen profited handsomely. He said in an interview that he ended up going 50-50 with the studio on all toys, models, T-shirts, and whatnot. These types of deals are virtually unheard of now, not to mention back in the 80s.

Daniels And Hasselhoff Didn’t Meet Until The Christmas Party

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Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage
Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage

William Daniels and David Hasselhoff made for quite the chemistry on the screen. But, they were never in the same room together while the show was being made. They first met at the show’s Christmas party when Knight Rider was already an established hit.

Hasselhoff said, A guy walks over to my table and goes, ‘Hi, I’m William Daniels, I play K.I.T.T,’ and then I said, ‘ Oh, I’m David Hasselhoff and I play Michael.’ ” They began to talk about the show and how crazy it was to be on a hit show and yet never have met each other.

The Hoff Has Struggled With Alcoholism

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Jo Hale/Getty Images
Jo Hale/Getty Images

If you’ve been keeping up with pop culture at all, you know that David Hasselhoff has had his struggles when it comes to alcoholism. He openly admits to having an alcohol addiction and has even said that he “hit rock bottom” before he decided to get treatment.

He claims that there are some people who can have a few drinks and not spiral out of control, and there are others who can’t. He puts himself into the latter group in which the word “casuals” just doesn’t exist. He checked himself into the Betty Ford Center for the first time and left a day later.

He Wasn’t Ready To Seek Treatment

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JB Lacroix/WireImage
JB Lacroix/WireImage

The next morning after his short stint in rehab, he was found in a hotel unconscious after having too much to drink. He ended up going into the Betty Ford Center but realized that he needed “one more night of fun” before he decided to get sober. He claims that he wasn’t ready to seek treatment, but after he woke up in the hospital, it was time for him to get his life together.

He knew that was his rock bottom moment and that if he didn’t get the help he would end up dead very shortly. He realized his social drinking had increased to more than he was comfortable with and decided he needed to do something about it.