Brandon Tartikoff, youthful head of programming at NBC once gave ‘California’ magazine this version of the creation of ‘Knight Rider’: It seems he and one of his assistants were discussing the problems of casting handsome leading men in the series, because many of them can’t act. Why not have a series, they mused, called ‘The Man of Six Words’, which would begin with the guy getting out of a woman’s bed and saying “Thank you”. Then he would chase down some villains and say “Freeze!”. Finally the grateful almost-victims would thank him and he would murmur, “You’re welcome”. End of show. In between, the car could do the talking.
The series that made it to the air as ‘Knight Rider’ was scarcely less preposterous than that, but it was played with such a twinkle in the eye that viewers – especially kids – made it one of the hits of the 1982 season. The opening episode told the story of how a dying millionaire named Wilton Knight rescued a young undercover cop who had been shot in the face. After plastic surgery, officer Michael Young David Hasselhoff) had a new face, a new identity (Michael Knight) and a new mission in life: to fight for law and justice in Knight’s incredible super car, the Knight Industries Two Thousand – or KITT (William Daniels), for short. It was love at first sight between Michael and KITT. The car, a sleek, black, customized Pontiac Trans-Am, was impervious to attack, could cruise at 300 mph, could leap up to 50 feet through the air and was loaded with such armaments as flame throwers, smoke bombs and infrared sensing devices. Best of all, it could talk and in fact had a personality all its own; peevish, a bit haughty, but totally protective of Michael. He could summon the car when in trouble and it would come crashing through walls to get to him.
Its deceased inventor had left behind a huge fortune to finance the crime-fighting and a trusted associate, the suave Devon Miles (Edward Mulhare), to look after things. Based at a palatial estate, called somewhat grandly the Foundation for Law and Government, Michael (And often Devon) went forth each week, trailed by a large maintenance van that served as a sort of mobile command post. Rounding out the crew was a beautiful mechanic, variously Bonnie Barstow (Patricia McPherson) or April Curtis (Rebecca Holden) and Reginald Cornelius III “RC3”, a streetwise mechanic who joined the team in the fall of 1985. Behind the scenes, the same Hollywood customizers who built Batman’s Batmobile and the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty worked on KITT.
Though the gimmick in the series was the car, much of the show’s appeal was due to actor David Hasselhoff, a tall, handsome former soap-opera heart throb on ‘The Young and The Restless’ who joked and kidded with his computerized companion. While he had more to say than “The Man of Six Words”, his tight jeans, wavy hair and laid back style (his favorite phrase was “You got it”) made women melt.
‘Team Knight Rider’, a sequel to this series aired during the 1997 – 1998 season.
Pontiac, who supplied the Trans Am for the series, found itself swamped with customer requests for black Firebird Trans Ams with T-tops, tan interiors, and red lights on the front bumper, just like the show car.
The "jumping car" was a hollow-fiberglass Trans Am.
The "auto-cruise" car was driven by a stunt driver inside the driver seat.
William Daniels who did the voice of K.I.T.T., never appeared in the in credits during the show's four year run.
Narrator: 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.
Michael Knight: [repeated line in the series, speaking to KITT] Keep your scanners peeled.