Today sees the release of Knight Rider (2008), Season One on DVD. This four disc set contains the original Pilot from February 2008, as well as all 17 episodes that aired from September 24, 2008 till March 4, 2009.
Originally aired in February of 2008, the "back door pilot" was watched by over 12.7 million viewers. Set in real time, of 25 years later, we find Charles Graimen (a never known creator of KITT), being pursued, which activates the Knight Industries Three Thousand, or KITT, so that it can secure Sarah, Charles's daughter, and do what is necessary to protect her and the secrets she might be able to provide.
In September of the same year, Knight Rider returned to series form. Gary Scott Thompson (of Las Vegas and Fast and the Furious fame), came aboard as showrunner to inject adrenaline into the pilot, and transition it to episodic television. Originally approved for 13 filmed episodes, news was received on October 4th that four more scripts had been requested by NBC, and by Oct 21st they had approved a full season order.
As the show changed from the pilot to series, several characters were lost, while others were gained. The small team on the run, had turned into a larger government organization in a bunker in the middle of nowhere. What they lacked in dirt and grit, they more than made up for in flash and amazement.
The episodes themselves start out as a larger seasonal arch, with a story line that was supposed to carry on throughout the season. This was a departure from the original's "self contained format", a change some welcomed, but it didn't stay that way for too long. Sub-plots containing Mike's lost memory were quickly cut from the episodes for being too graphic, and shoved online for not many to see.
With complaints of too many characters vying for screen time, and NBC failing as a network to attract any viewership for any series, thus cutting many executives on staff, a change was needed. The format shifted in brilliant form back to the Knight Rider theme of old, by "offing" several of the main cast members, and blowing up the large government organization.
This new direction, with a renewed focus on the core of Knight Rider's vision of one man making a difference, began to see the ratings improve. But it was too little too late. In December, with new management in power at NBC, production on Knight Rider shut down at the end of it's 17th filmed episode (which aired 13th), a reduction from the 23 that were promised.
While many of us fought on to have this version of Knight Rider rise again, the future is still unclear. But with this release, we get to hold onto it a little more.
This is really an improvement from the other Knight Rider releases. The packaging is a mostly matte finish, except for the amazing image of KITT on the front, and the cast on the back. Additionally, the Knight Rider text on the front is beautifully embossed. It really makes the package shine.
The discs themselves are an improvement as well. Previously they were double sided - single layer discs. Here they are single sided - dual layer discs, which reduce the amount of surfaces that can be scratched. Additionally the stacking of discs, reduces the overall thickness of the packaging, which saves the environment waste and space on your shelf. The DVDs are held into a clear plastic tray which hide this beautiful image of KITT.
There are a couple of glaring things missing from the package art. For one, Gary Scott Thompson isn't mentioned anywhere, and since 95% of this box set is his project, that's a huge oversight. Secondly, Sydney Tamiia Poitier is completely edited out of the packaging artwork. This is just downright odd since all other cast members from the series are there.
The quality of the interior disc menus are effective. The menu itself starts off with a 30 second loop to the new theme, cut to various footage of the series, but not duplicating the similar cuts of the opening credits. The typography and layout can be a bit cluttered and overly vibrant at times, and dull at others. The color scheme feels very much like the pilot, and less like the series.
While the series was broadcast in HD, for sale on iTunes in HD, and would no doubt look amazing on Blu-Ray, what we have been delivered here is Standard Definition. Don't get me wrong, the transfer is quite beautiful, short of some grain here or there in the darker scenes. But it's quite disappointing in today's world for the best format to not be available. That said, the quality is superior to that of the iTunes Standard Definition, and when played on an upscale DVD player, the picture held up great.
Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, there really isn't much complaints here.
With all the behind the scenes footage, cut scenes and open ended questions, the Extra's on this set leave something to be desired. Those of you looking for this disc to provide closure on many of the unanswered questions will unfortunately be disappointed.
The extras "The Icon Reborn Featurette", "KITT from 2000 to 3000 Featurette", "Knight Rider Legacy Featurette" and "Knight Rider 2008 Audio Commentary" are all about the original pilot movie from last February. In fact, all these features were originally announced, but never released, on a DVD that was supposed to be available over the summer between the pilot and the series. To see this content now after the direction completely changed once they got to series, unfortunately dates alot of the commentary here as no longer true. The one gem on the set is the Gag Reel, which at just over 6 minutes, provides a unique behind the scenes look at the series.
That type of honesty, is really missing from this disc, and it's something both diehard fans and non diehard fans could appreciate. Here too, Gary Scott Thompson's presence is completely absent and it painfully shows. The gag reel being the only thing surviving his tenure on the features. Where are the dozens of commercials we all diligently captured? What about the next week teasers? Where is all the Electronic Press Kit footage, some which is used in the pilot movie features, but absolutely none used from the series.
Where is all the footage from Comic Con, the panel, the teaser footage, the Attack KITT reveal. We were there, and we saw NBC's own people filming it. Where is the cast retrospective, or even just someone answering all of the fans dying questions, like what was to happen in those last 5 episodes, where did they really see the series headed for season two, what happened to David returning, what did they plan to happen to flag. And I haven't even started to mention the great team at Master Key, which single handedly visualized the amazing KITT vs KARR battle for the series.
It just pains me, and I'm sure others, that there are all of these questions that we'll never have the answers to. Whether it's company politics, or a supposed belief in lack of audience, this isn't the complete picture. For that you'll have to look on YouTube, here or the other Knight Rider sites, and that's a shame. If a site like ours can produce over 50 pieces of unique content, and capture a similar number of On Air commercials, how can they drop the ball so badly on the extras here? There was tons of extras on NBC.com for the series, already produced - there really isn't an excuse not to include it.
I hope one day, we'll get a clear understanding of what transpired on the set of Knight Rider, beyond the one in the press after time has past. (It took 20 years to get some true stories about the original series!) The show is doing amazingly in it's first run in Europe, so it's possible the larger draw could see a better DVD release, but that's completely guessing - I'd hope for even a second season if we are going there...
While this revival of Knight Rider wasn't everything to everyone that the original series was, it succeeded in many things. It showed a new generation the theme of people trying to make a difference, had some amazing action/effects and introduced them to KITT and Michael. It's too early to know if it's sparked the interest that the original did in the minds of kids (though if my InBox is any indication, it has).
If you are a fan of the series, and want to have the episodes easily accessible, then you can't go wrong with this set. With all the episodes, plus the two hour movie as well as some insight onto the early stages of production, it is a must have. If you've bought your favorite episodes on iTunes, and are wondering if you should buy the set, you may want to wait for it to get a little cheaper. At $42 on Amazon, that can be a bit steep with not much additional content for people with partial collections already.
*Note: I planed to write a longer post here about the series ups and down as a whole, but that detracted from what should be the point of the article, but I will post it soon at a later date.