Thursday, September 25, 2008

Knight Rider Season Premiere

Back in February, NBC produced a slick television movie reinventing the Knight Rider franchise - and you know what? It wasn't half bad.

The producers had enough sense to stick with what made the original series so popular - a cool car, a competent hero and some low-key bad guys who possessed enough wherewith all to actually poss a threat to the indestructible talking super-car.

Sadly, last night's premiere of the new Knight Rider television series indicated that somebody had taken all those lessons they'd learned from the well-received movie and flushed them straight down the toilet. What we got instead was a derivative mish-mash of CGI special effects and limp scripting.

The episode kicked off mid-mission, with David Hasselhoff stand-in Mike Traceur (played by soap-star Justin Bruening) undercover at an embassy. Unfortunately, our square-jawed hero looked like a chimp poured into a badly fitting tuxedo and his champagne-quaffing and womanising quickly lost him the vital package he was supposed to be recovering.

NBC Fatal Mistake #1: David Hasselhoff, for all his cheesiness, at least looked pretty good in a tuxedo.

NBC Fatal Mistake #2: Incompetence and petulance does not a heroic protagonist make, so it would have been nice if Mike Traceur wasn't such a dumbass.

Fortunately, the shiny Knight Industries Three Thousand is parked outside and helps Mike get his act together to rescue his accomplice, the lovely Deanna Russo (playing Mike's old girlfriend - and daughter of KITT's creator - Sarah Graiman.)

NBC Fatal Mistake #3: If you're going to try for a James Bond style espionage scene, try filming it somewhere more exotic than the basement of the nearest shopping mall.

NBC Fatal Mistake #4: Generally, the aim is to improve the look and feel of a reinvented series. This show has the production values of Saved By The Bell.

After rescuing Sarah, Mike gets a bail out by KITT, who evades the embassy guards by transforming himself from a Ford Mustang into a F-150 pick-up truck.

Yes, he turns into a pick-up truck.

NBC Fatal Mistake #5: He turns into a freakin' pick-up truck? Are you kidding me? At least the original Hasselhoff-era KITT had gadgets that were vaguely believable.

So off Sarah and Mike zoom, whisking through the streets thanks to inglorious CGI effects.

NBC Fatal Mistake #6: If your computer effects team is churning out stuff that looks worse than Grand Theft Auto on a Playstation 2, you might want to think of raising the bar a little.

Then, horrors of horror, an enemy helicopter fires a missile at our retreating heroes! Fortunately, despite the fact that the missile is travelling at 1,000mph and KITT is cruising, like, 150mph, it takes bloody forever (well, five minutes or so) to hit - plenty of time for the crew back at the 'KITT Cave' to hypothesise how to avoid it.

Well, maybe not plenty of time, since the missile does actually hit them - and covers KITT in sticky napalm, which threatens to choke Sarah and Mike to death.

NBC Fatal Mistake #7: A KITT Cave? Really? Like the Bat Cave?

NBC Fatal Mistake #8: Have your scriptwriters ever heard of the escalation of tension? An indestructible super car isn't all that indestructible if random baddies can blow it up before the credits have even rolled.

NBC Fatal Mistake #9: Why did you just let the napalm choke Sarah and Mike to death? Really? Would it have been that tragic?

Fortunately, the crew of geeks at the KITT Cave come up with a solution to save our plucky heroes, despite the fact that everything threatens to go tits up when the nerd with sixteen million degrees in astrophysics is unable to open a simple bloody door...

Everything ends well, though, so Mike and Sarah are saved (oh, did I mention they'd stripped to their underwear for no apparent reason?) and the crew of Knight Industries plots their next move to recover the package.

You know, that package. The one that was mentioned in passing in the first scenes of the show, but hasn't been talked about since. The disinterested minor detail that apparently the entire plot hangs off.

NBC Fatal Mistake #10: Plot - ur doin it rong.

Despite the urgency of their mission, we get some time to meet the new Knight Rider crew. There's Mike and Sarah, of course. Then there's Sarah's father, Dr Graiman, who invented KITT. A very dodgy pair of FBI agents, played by Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Sidney's daughter) and Yancey Arias.

Finally we have the two techies - nerdy Paul Campbell and utterly gorgeous Asian sensation Smith Cho, playing impish Zoe Chae.

I'm a firm believer of finding one bright spot in a TV show and sticking to it, so despite everything, Knight Rider's got my loyalty thanks to this flirty little minx and her innuendo-laden techno babble.

She's great - cute and smart and with easily the best lines. Whereas most of the other cast members deliver their script in a robust sort of way, only Cho makes her lines zing.

Anyway. Unfortunately the scriptwriters aren't nearly as enamoured with Smith Cho as I am, so before we know it, the plot's up and running again and we're all off to Washington DC (which incidentally looks an awful lot like Southern California, even down to the palm trees.)

Mike and KITT drive off to find this 'package,' which turns out to be a person with a secret cipher embedded in his DNA. Before Mike can 'rescue' him, however, a saucy little lovely in a souped-up sports car appears on the scene and kidnaps 'the package.'

With surprising ease, I might add.

NBC Fatal Mistake #11: Seriously, if you're going to entrust a secret agent to save the world, at least pick one who isn't a TOTAL imbecile.

Mike dutifully zooms off after the kidnapped chump in KITT, who does most of the driving while Mike gets all angsty and has an argument with Sarah over the intercom. All of these shenanigans are only ended when the evil lady hacks off her prisoner's thumb and chucks him by the side of the road.

The quest to recover the stolen thumb gets underway (yes, the plot hangs around a stolen digit. Don't look at me like that. I didn't write the damn thing.)

Mike manages to track down the evil thumb-stealing seductress in the Washington DC subway system and KITT transforms into a pick-up truck to zoom along the rails to capture her. Since, clearly, driving over the subway tracks in a Mustang would have just been silly.

After rescuing the missing thumb, things seem to be finally going Mike's way - until Sydney Tamiia Poitier turns up (making this her second scene in the episode) and blows Mike away with a 9mm.

Mind you, if my prize secret agent had been outwitted by a brunette with too much eye-liner and knee high boots, I'd have been tempted to execute him as well.

As it turns out, ol' Sidney was just faking Mike's death, so he could avoid all the people hunting him down under the name 'Michael Traceur.' As the show wraps up, Mike chooses a new name (Michael Knight, sounds familiar?) and the whole crew settles down for next week's exciting, convoluted, irrational, disorganised and presumably incompetently performed mission.

It only lasted an hour, but Knight Rider was a painful experience. From such a strong start with February's mini-movie, I'd had high hopes that they'd have kept a winning formula and delivered something that was a worthy successor to the classic 80s TV show.

But instead, they took the lazy route and cobbled together a package that resembled Team Knight Rider more than Hasselhoff's old warhorse.

What, you don't remember Team Knight Rider?

There's a reason for that...

Knight Rider - I know this is only your first episode, but you've REALLY got to pick up the pace, otherwise you're going to kill the franchise all over again.


The Chemist said...

And yet, I'm strangely not intrigued. I'm not sure if it's because no one can replace the 'Hoff, or because anyone can replace the 'Hoff.

Coffee Bean said...

Blech. I hate shows like that. I saw 3.7 seconds of it the other night while flipping channels... the part where some kid tells an Asian girl his degrees or whatever and then she says she speaks 9 languages and they should make a baby... NOT and then they, of course, do a shot of her behind after she flips her sassy self around. CHANNEL CHANGE!!!

Roland Hulme said...


Haunted Jo said...

Hey Rols,

Wow, thanks for the warning on this. I guess I'll catch the mini-movie and avoid the rest like the plague! Sounds very hackey.
Just proves, you need more than pretty people and a fancy CGI car. You, like, kinda need a script or some interesting people or Joss Whedon or somethin'....
Great review - I can tell you were especially annoyed by this because of how exasperatedly long it is - and it's good work!

AtiLaw said...

Agree completely with this post.

I think the bit where I almost tore my own eyes out in frustration at the poor production was the car chase. OK, so you have to first ignore the fact he's meant to be the best car in the world, able to outrun helicopters and reach speeds others can only dream of, yet struggles to chase a convertable on a normal highway going barely 70mph from the looks of it.

So ignoring all that, during the "chase" they brought up a satellite image of the car in front, "panned" the satellite image so it was facing the driver of the car in front (my god, and this isn't the worse bit) - then it showed that image on KITT's windscreen display.

You then see out of KITT through the windscreen side by side with the view of the satellite during the chase. But oh - hang on a minute - in the sat image she's driving down a straight road with barely any traffic, and no KITT following them from behind. Yet from the position of KITT, you clearly see they are close, and she's weaving through traffic around a blind corner. This sort of mistake might be forgiven if the scenes were cut from each other, switching back and forth, but they arn't, you can see both views in the same scene for ages... so whoever did the effects would have been looking at both the in car view, and the overlay cam view together for maybe half a day as he/she put the bits together for the scene.

I absolutely hated the episode, and I was looking forward to it for months. So many poorly done effects, turning KITT into a transformer, and a team of idiots, and no storyline to actually hold the whole thing together, all just increased my stress levels... so I'm done.

Oh - I'm almost 100% convinced they through the transforming in just so they could advertise more of Fords vehicles. There are scenes when he changes for no apparent reason, like near the end of the chase when he loses the convertible, he goes from Normal mode, to Attack Mode, then almost instantly to Pickup Mode for absolutely no reason, within seconds of each other.

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