Glen A. Larsen produced a lot of classic television shows, like Battlestar Galactica, but his greatest work was the 1982 hit Knight Rider and there were a bunch of knock-offs.

Described by him as "The Lone Ranger with a car" the show, starring David Hasselhoff as a "young loner" driving the inteligent car KITT lasted four seasons and 90 episodes. It's a worldwide hit and has been syndicated for decades.

The success of the show led to many imitations. Some were pretty good, but none has ever achieved the success of Knight Rider.

Read on to see the ten Knight Rider knock-offs from copters to cycles that failed.

10. Knight Rider 2010

AKA Michael Knight with a beat-up car
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 1
What do you get when you cross Knight Rider with Mad Max? In the 1995 TV movie Knight Rider 2010 Jake McQueen (Richard Joseph Paul) lives as a smuggler in a post-apocalyptic future. The car is a piece of junk Mustang. The computer is actually the mind of a dead woman and there is no organization backing him as he sets out to bring justice to the desert. Truly a lame and pointless idea. Funnily enough the creators tried to distance themselves from the show by avoiding anything hi-tech and renaming the woman from Katherine (or "Kat"which sounds like KITT) to Hanna.

9. Team Knight Rider (1997)

AKA Five Michael Knights with five cars
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 22
I saw one episode and just found it confusing. If one car is good then five vehicles should be five times as popular right? In 1997, the syndicated show Team Knight Rider (TKR) was launched about a group of heroes driving in a variety of high-tech talking cars and motorcycles. It was intended as a sort of spin-off of the original series and even featured a guest appearance by David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight. The show's ratings were horrible and it was canceled.

8. Automan (1983)

AKA Michael Knight with a walking car.
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 13 (1 unaired)
This was one of my favorites. It was as close to virtual reality as we got back then. Starring Desi Arnez Jr. and Chuck Wagner, was about a sentient computer program that could take physical form. He had a sidekick known as "Cursor," that could transform into vehicles. Most commonly a car that could make 90 degree turns, but he also had a neon-glow helicopter and a boat. He was supposed to be the "world's first truly automatic man" which, I guess, meant he had a remote control built into his hand and a beer keg stomach. This was one of legendary Knight Rider creator Glen Larsen's many attempts to recreate the success of the show. It got as far as producing 13 episodes, but was canceled on the 12th.

7. Blue Thunder 

AKA Michael Knight with a helicopter
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 11
I never saw the 1984 show, but I did see the movie with Roy Scheider and enjoyed it. The main reason was because the other helicopter show Airwolf came out on CBS in the same year and I loved that show. NBC agreed and threw in the towel after 11 episodes. The cast is pretty incredible. It had two ex-football players, Bubba Smith and Dick Butkis, and Saturday night Live's Dana Carvey for comic relief. That was eighties television casting for you.

6. The Highwayman (1987)

AKA Michael Knight with a truck
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 10
Highwayman was Knight Rider with a semi-truck patrolling post-apocalyptic roads of the future. This one also had an impressive cast, starring Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon), Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager) and Jane Badler (V). Another show created by Knight Rider creator Glen Larsen, the "ultra-high-tech" truck carried weapons, a helicopter and a car. It looked like it would be a winner. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after nine episodes. The theme song was great though.

5. Street Hawk

AKA Michael Knight with a motorcycle
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 13
In some ways Street Hawk, starring Rex Smith, was superior. The motorcycle was faster, could do a vertical leap and had machine guns and grenade launchers. My favorite thing about the show was he had to get permission to blast off at 300 miles an hour. It makes sense since going that fast he's bound to hit something without help. There was a lot of thought put into the show, but it failed at the most important thing. Rex Smith, while cool, was no Hasselhoff.

4. Airwolf

AKA Michael Knight with a helicopter
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 79

The second, and more popular helicopter show. It was my personal favorite. Starring Jan-Michael Vincent, it was about a young loner (surprise) with a hi-tech helicopter that helped people. He had a team that provided back-up and the show did real well. It ran for three years and had a bunch of toy and video game tie-ins. The only problem is it never got past the comparisons to Knight Rider. Really, since it was created by Donald P. Bellisario, it was closer to Magnum P.I. Poor Airwolf.

3. Knight Rider 2000
AKA Old Michael Knight with a car
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 1
Set in the "far future" of 2001, the 1991 telemovie Knight Rider 2000 was about a world where law enforcement only carries non-lethal weapons and criminals are cryogenically frozen. Sounds a lot like Demolition Man doesn't it? Driving a souped up 1991 Dodge Stealth David Hasselhoff comes back to bring law and order to Texas. The movie was supposed to be a pilot for a spin-off to the original show, but it failed to capture the imagination of the viewers.

2. Viper

AKA Michael Knight with a MORE hi-tech car.
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 78
Viper was about a young loner, played by James McCaffrey, traveling in a super powered car. Unlike Knight Rider, they one-upped KITT by adding camouflage armor and weapons. The show lasted a while, lasting four seasons, but is a footnote in television history. You can't even buy it on DVD unless you go to Germany. Head to TVShowsOnDVD.com if you want to join the petition to bring it back.

1. Knight Rider (2008)

AKA New Michael Knight with a new car
Episodes Aired Before It Was Canceled: 17
The greatest Knight Rider failure of all was the reboot series that launched in 2008. NBC was sure they had a winner. The 2008 pilot got huge ratings. So, naturally NBC green-lit the series later that year. Justin Bruening starred as the estranged son of Michael Knight driving a Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang. The car was hot and got a lot of attention. Val Kilmer did the voice of the computer KITT. The biggest problem with the show was it was too much of a commercial for Ford. The car changed into five different Ford vehicles and the character development was weak. They tried to retool the show back to the "young loner" theme from the original, but the show disappeared into the night.

I'd like to give a shout-out to The Man-Cave for inspiring this post with his post The Man-Cave Remembers: STREET HAWK
Is there a Knight Rider knock-off you think should have gotten a chance? Do you have a fond Knight Rider memory you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments.


AlexJCavanaugh said...

Maybe they should've remembered there was only ONE Knight Rider?
I did enjoy Airwolf and while I never saw the show, the Blue Thunder movie was good.

Craig Edwards said...

Great post, Maurice but one correction - I think the Michael Knight who turned up near the end of Team Knight Rider was NOT Hasselhoff, but another actor, making it one of the lamest attempts to recapture a fan base in history.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Alex, Knight Rider was a young loner.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Craig, that is sad. That means TKR was even more worthless than I thought.

Jay said...

You consider 78 and 79 episodes a failure? wow, you know some shows get canceled even though they are great, i mean Firefly, is all i am gonna say about that, but anything that runs more than 40 or 50 episodes is not a failure , everyone is so nutts over sons of anarchy and by the end of season 6 they only had 79 episodes, so that would be the same as airwolf, what are you basing your information upon? because every time i see a list here, it looks to me some 20 year old snob who does not know a thing about what he is writing makes these lists, I give you a miserable fail, horrible opinions, and ill researched facts, i guess any idiot can get anything published now.

FearTheClaw said...

The biggest shame is that the 2008 series was canceled just as it was getting good. Why they didn't follow the premise of the original with the setting of the TV movie, I'll never know. The "retooling" from pilot to series is what ruined it.


Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!