Robert Madden
TV Guide

I know several young boys who are crazy about this NBC series. "It's tight," they tell me. The hero, I gather, is a moderately OK dude, but the car...the car is bad. It has everything a healthy young American would like in an automobile-flame throwers, smoke bombs, ejection seats, video games. It cruises at 300 mph, under its own volition when necessary. When the hero is in trouble, it roars to the rescue. It even talks.

The lead character, played by David Hasselhoff, is a lean, handsome young stud who wears jeans and leather jackets and says "You got it" a lot. Backed by a large fortune, he has no sordid worries about making a living, so is free to cruise in his futuristic Trans Am, righting wrongs and whizzing to the aid of pretty girls. (Homely girls, according to hallowed convention, never need rescuing.)

The pilot episode, which had to set the hero up in this blissful situation, was under a bit of strain in the credibility department. Starting as a policeman on the trail of an industrial espionage ring, our man was shot in the head, which destroyed his face. A benevolent millionaire named Knight (Richard Basehart) hired a plastic surgeon to fix his face, handed him the keys to his computerized stunt machine and gave him a new identity as a free-lance crime fighter with the name Michael Knight. Then, with a patrician sense of timing, he died, leaving his suave right-hand man (Edward Mulhare) to look after his namesake and pay his expenses.

The plastic surgery didn't appear to be a necessary plot device, since the only crooks who could identify the hero were put away by the end of the episode. But I guess it added a Six Million Dollar Man flavor. Pilot episodes frequently include the kitchen sink. This one even had a demolition derby on the theory that you can't go wrong by destroying automobiles.

The pretty girl in one episode was a WAC lieutenant whose father, an Army officer, had been murdered. It turned out he had discovered a plot to steal tactical nuclear weapons. A corrupt general came after Knight and his car with a whole artillery division, including tanks and heat-seeking missiles. Knight's car is supposed to be indestructible, but this time it got a few dents.

The dialogue and acting are comic-book level and the plots are mostly hand-me-downs. One story involved a gang of mean bikers terrorizing a small town. This one lifted the plot of "The Wild One," including the cowardly sheriff and the girl in the cafe. Motorcycle hoodlums are like Nazis- increasingly rare in real life but too useful as villains for television to drop.

Knight is like the movie cowboy who would leave the girl and go off with his horse. The meaningful relationship here is between the hero and his car. It not only talks but thinks, and it has a peevish personality. They bicker constantly. Actually it's more of a marriage than a romance. The car keeps track of Michael's vital signs and nags him about his health. But when Knight is in jail, the car crashes through brick walls and picks him up, though not without a certain amount of crabbing.

I understand the car's appeal, but it is just as well that I don't own one. The first time some clown cut in front of me in traffic. I'd hit the flame-thrower button.

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