40 years ago | Chamberlains Farm, Shevington Moor | 10th March 1983
What child of the 1970s and 80s didn’t love an American car chase show? I’d been an avid viewer of The Dukes of Hazzard for a few years but one day, I saw something that immediately challenged The Dukes’ status as My Favourite TV Show – Knight Rider…
“Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of 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.”
With its synth-pop theme tune and mysterious opening monologue, I was instantly hooked. Suddenly, Bo and Luke in “The General Lee”, their orange ’69 Dodge Charger, started to feel dated and cartoonish, a muscle-car ode to the previous decade.
In contrast, ‘KITT’ was installed with futuristic AI, the cutting-edge looks of an ’82 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – and he was bullet-proof! It was as 1980s as it could be. What nine year-old could resist the conclusion that this was the future of TV entertainment?
There was another key difference: instead of outrunning incompetent, corrupt cops every week, Michael Knight was an agent for F.L.A.G., the Foundation for Law And Government. As with Star Wars the honour and chivalry of medieval knights was irresistibly fused with mind-blowing technology, like a watch you could make calls from.
Clearly, I was in the key demographic for the show. Just as with E.T., it was so in tune with our worldview, it felt like Hollywood had a direct line to the playground at St. Wilfrid’s Primary School. What I didn’t know, until writing this, was this bit of historical detail, which I found on Wikipedia:
“The studio held a marketing campaign for Knight Rider. Fans could write to the network and they would receive a pamphlet detailing some features about KITT. The first campaign was held in August 1982. The pamphlet said, “The Competition is NO Competition!” KITT was pictured parked alongside a vehicle that resembled the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard.”
For the record, I never fell out of love with The Dukes of Hazzard but they did become an ‘old favourite’ rather than a current obsession. Before the year was out, The A-Team had also arrived on our screens and, rather than creating competition between these shows (and others, like Magnum, P.I. and The Fall Guy), it simply felt like a golden age of television – although I do remember playground arguments about which one was best.
This stuff really mattered…