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Knight Rider (2008)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this retread of the well-known '80s series is too racy for this generation of kids -- and too poorly made to please old-school fans. In addition to very frequent car chases, there's plenty of other action featuring fists, guns, and other weapons. Plus, hero Michael Traceur is a lot more promiscuous than David Hasselhoff's Michael Knight was in the '80s, sometimes ending up in bed with one or more women. For no apparent reason, women also often appear in slinky outfits and sometimes in their underwear, and there's a fair bit of sexual innuendo, some heavily charged flirting, occasional drinking, and one very, very obvious product placement (hint: it's the car).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A former Army Ranger with several blank spots in his memory, a background as a race car driver, and plenty of derring-do, Michael Traceur (Justin Bruening) is the estranged son of Michael Knight, hero of the original Knight Rider. Just like his father, Traceur carries out dangerous missions with the help of a very special artificial-intelligence vehicle, the Knight Industries Three Thousand -- aka KITT (voiced by Val Kilmer). The car's powerful systems offer Traceur plenty of help: Its sensors can locate missing people; it can spot the bad guys inside a building and transmit step-by-step directions to a tiny receiver in Traceur's ear; it's heavily armed, bulletproof, and really, really fast (which sure comes in handy during the frequent car chases); and, when necessary, it can completely transform itself into several other types of vehicles.
Is it any good?
Sure, it's cool, but almost a decade into the 21st century -- when everyone has a cell phone, GPS systems provide directions, and people can use the Internet to find out almost anything about anyone -- a talking car just doesn't seem that special anymore. So when Traceur heads off on his generic missions (download files from a foreign embassy's computers, retrieve some "package," etc.), KITT doesn't always seem to give him much of an edge over the bad guys. While the transforming vehicle effect is pretty neat, even that comes straight out of Transformers, where it was done much better. And the spy sequences all come from the same playbook as Mission: Impossible.
And, unfortunately, there's not much else to the series besides the cool car (which is obviously and repeatedly identified as a Ford Mustang GT500KR) and the careworn formula of a mysterious loner tapped by some shadowy agency to take on dangerous tasks of urgent importance with the help of some really nifty gadgets. The original show was fun but seems dated today, while this new version is flat and uninspired. Traceur's tasks seem bolted onto the script to provide some transition between the action scenes -- car chases, martial arts fights, and shootouts -- and what passes as a romantic subplot between incorrigible womanizer Traceur and colleague/former girlfriend Sarah Graiman (Deanna Russo), who often appears in her underwear for no obvious reason and whose scientist father, Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison), developed both KITTs. While the original series drove off into the sunset as a hit, this one doesn't even get out of the garage.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why producers decided to make the new version of this show so much edgier than the original. What audience do you think they're trying to appeal to -- today's young fans, or people who watched the '80s show when they were young? Why do you think this show was chosen for an update in the first place? A thinking car seemed pretty far-fetched in the '80s, which was part of its appeal. Does the idea still seem futuristic, or does the new version of KITT seem plausible, given the 21st-century technology that's already available? Families can also discuss what makes one action/thriller show stand out from another. Does a series need to have a "gimmick" (like an intelligent car) to succeed?