Wrapping Up a Story Arc Too Early: Knight Rider 2008 (TV Showcase #26)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Glen Larson, it’s that the dude doesn’t give up. He’s had more one or two-season shows than I’ve seen anyone else put out, and yet he still kept pumping out new ideas right up until his death. He especially didn’t give up on his “Knight Rider” franchise. He was responsible for “Team Knight Rider” nine years after the original series, and now, another ten years after TKR, along comes his next reboot idea: “Knight Rider” 2008.

“Knight Rider” 2008 (still KR for short) started with a pilot movie and ran for 17 hour-long episodes after that, only airing one season and ending in 2009. The show was about Mike Knight, son of Michael Knight, who (to make a long story short) gets mixed up with FLAG and is subsequently given the position that his father used to hold. He’s given a new KITT, several helpers, and a huge lab to conduct work in (another step up from Sky One and Michael’s old truck). So, we have essentially the same series reborn. But remember what I said about the original KR; the same applies here. Only a young audience of 2008 isn’t as easily taken in as a slightly older audience of the 1980s. So this time the show had to abandon the superhero idea and focus way more on the thriller and scifi elements of KITT. So why did this show flop so soon?

KR 2008 was a continuing saga, in which Mike has his separate adventures but slowly begins to uncover clues about some secret that some of his coworkers are keeping from him. It all adds up to the return of KARR (who, admirably, was voiced by its original voice actor from the 1980s). The great thing about this story arc is that for an original KR fan like me, I already knew who KARR was, but I didn’t know how he’d been remodeled (KITT’s remodeling was quite different from his original look) or what he was capable of. As it turns out, there was a wonderfully clever backstory about how the folks at Knight Industries attempted to piece KARR back together after he was destroyed in the original series. They intended to program him for good, but something went wrong, and he turned out to be incredibly powerful and evil. And even though Mike and KITT had all sorts of unrelated adventures in between, the slow unveiling of KARR kept me engaged (“Adventures in Odyssey”‘s Novacom saga is a great example of this method too). So where did it fail?

Well, Mike fought KARR in episode nine or ten, and the story arc was over. Throughout the show, Mike and his girlfriend had been strained in their relationship by the presence of her father, who had somewhat taken over Devon’s role as Mike’s boss. But rather than keep this connection to the older generation, he was killed off right before the KITT versus KARR fight. Additionally, there was another character who was a fantastic secret agent (played by Sydney Tamiia Poitier, no less), but the showrunners spotted that after KARR’s demise, there were too many characters left over, since the series wasn’t so involved anymore. But rather than get rid of the shallow girl who thought she was super-hot, or the dirty nerd boy who continually fell at her feet, they allowed the agent to become permanently injured and leave the show. I can see where the community between Mike, his girlfriend, the hottie, and the nerd came together, but throwing out the agent and the father got rid of most of the show’s class and suspense.

Also, now that everything was solved and all was right with the world, the show went on for seven more unconnected episodes, which is quite possibly the most boring move that could have been made. If they had put these unconnected episodes elsewhere throughout the show but before the KARR climax, the audience would have been engaged, and the show may have continued. But as it was, the show with so much potential to be even more than its predecessors completely dropped the ball and flopped. It’s confusing to me why the same people who saw “Team Knight Rider” go on for 22 episodes before climaxing couldn’t get KR 2008 to do the same for 17 episodes.

So, while an enjoyable show (for me, at least), “Knight Rider” 2008 is an example of what happens when showrunners end a story arc early. If you’re gonna do a story arc, please do it right. What do you think?

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