It’s tough to make a TV show about a car. Oh, sure there have been some really cool cars featured in TV shows like Batman (the Batmobile), Green Hornet (the Black Beauty), Starsky & Hutch (their ‘75 Ford Gran Torino), or My Mother the Car (a 1928 Porter — OK, not all of them were cool), but they were never front and center. That all changed with Knight Rider, the David Hasselhoff series that originally ran on NBC from 1982-1986.

In the show, undercover LAPD officer Michael Arthur Long is shot in the face during an assignment and left for dead. Instead, he’s saved by self-made billionaire Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart). Following plastic surgery, Michael is given the last name Knight and made the lead field agent in FLAG (Foundation for Law and Government), a public justice organization and, armed with KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am equipped with artificial intelligence among other high-tech features, he fights for justice. It is probably the only successful show that developed an actual connection between the lead and his car. And that connection, of course, led to the other important aspect of Knight Rider: the impact that the show — and especially KITT — has made on a couple of generations of viewers.

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

David Rogers, an Emmy Award-winning editor, whose credits include Seinfeld, The Office, and The Mindy Project, is a massive fan of the series. “I was a scrawny 13-year-old kid living in New Jersey when Knight Rider first aired, and I was hooked immediately,” he relates in an exclusive interview. “Michael Knight was cool, good looking, and funny. I wanted to be him. And look who his best friend was — an amazing car that was invulnerable to bullets, better looking, and faster than every other vehicle on the street. And it was loaded with abilities and weapons that put James Bond’s cars to shame. But even more important was that KITT had a brain, a personality, and heart. It’s like, if you weren’t tough enough as Michael Knight, your car would protect you and keep you safe and was this loyal friend that you could talk to. I think every teenage boy back then wished they had their own KITT, and some of us 'grownups' still do." David doesn't — he ultimately decided to take the plunge and purchased a full replica of KITT, which was even seen on an episode of The Goldbergs.

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(Photo Credit: David Rogers)

Knight Rider is perhaps the most beloved of TV producer Glen Larson’s many hit TV shows,” offers Mark A. Altman, co-author of this August’s So Say We All: The Complete, Uncensored Oral History of Battlestar Galactica. “Although he created such beloved shows as Quincy, M.D.; Alias Smith & Jones, Battlestar Galactica, and The Fall Guy, everyone remembers the series about the talking car. A lot of that probably has to do with the amazing chemistry between The Hoff and Williams Daniels’ voice as KITT, as well as Stu Phillips' unforgettable main title music which captured the sense of adventure and excitement of the show. Not to mention, the car itself is badass. There’s something unique in the DNA of the series that can’t be duplicated.”

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(Photo Credit: Joe Huth)

Adds David Rogers, "What's really amazing is the genuine chemistry between David Hasselhoff and Williams Daniels as the voice of KITT. They have this great back and forth between them, but they never recorded their lines together. When David was on set filming, he would deliver his lines and the Script Supervisor or Assistant Director would respond as KITT. It wasn't until weeks later that the footage would be edited and William Daniels would come into a recording booth to see what David did and respond with his performance. People still ask Williams Daniels where he 'sat in the car' during filming, because they assume he was there talking to David for every scene. David and William hadn't met in person until the Christmas party!"

Equally enthusiastic is Joe Huth. Like a lot of kids, Joe found his imagination captured by reruns of the show. And, like a lot of kids, he became kind of obsessed with all things Knight Rider-related. But unlike them, he went on to co-write a pair of non-fiction books about the show (Knight Rider Legacy: The Unofficial Guide to the Knight Rider Universe and Knight Rider: 30 Years of One Crusader and His Talking Car), serves as co-webmaster of knightriderhistorians.blogspot.com, and, more impressive than all of that, owns one of the original KIITs, which was recently featured on Jay Leno’s Garage series. Now that’s a fan!

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(Photo Credit: David Rogers)

Currently in his mid-30s, when he was a kid Joe used to catch reruns of the show in three-hour blocks on television and fell in love with it. “It was the car,” he enthuses. “It was this amazing car that could do all of these things and looked sleek, and was one of those things rooted in my childhood. As I got older — my teen years — I still liked it, but kind of put in the back of my mind. Then when I was in college in the early 2000s, that’s when the news groups sprang up and the Internet really started coming into its own.”

Searches for Knight Rider related boards led him to others who loved the show and as the discussions increased, so did his curiosity. “Eventually,” he explains, “I’d seen all the episodes and knew them pretty well, but then I started to want to know what happened off camera and behind the scenes. That was kind of the start of the first book.” Which led to his seeking out and interviewing Glen Larson, cast members Williams Daniels, Patricia Macpherson, and Rebecca Holden, as well as George Barris, who designed KITT — as he had done the Batmobile for Adam West’s Batman, the Monkeemobile for The Monkees, and the Black Beauty for the TV version of The Green Hornet.

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(Photo Credit: David Rogers)

In terms of his discovery about the making of the show, he notes, “The one common thread is how much of a positive experience it was behind the camera. You always hear drama and that people didn’t get along and all that stuff, but everyone says how welcoming and accommodating David Hasselhoff was. And that was the best thing we heard throughout the whole process, just how great it was to truly be on the set.”

Where there were issues was between David and the network over the content of the episodes. NBC was more concerned with the action and making sure that KITT was cool, while the actor was feeling not only overshadowed by a car, but that he wasn’t being given a lot of “human” moments to play genuine emotion.

Joe points out, “That was a big thing with David, because the network wanted all of this bang ‘em up action, and David wanted there to be some heart to the show. Some backstory to the character and some meat to play. They did have a few attempts with that. They brought in Michael Knight’s fiancee from before he became Michael Knight, and they did a few stories peppered in throughout the series that you could tell were David’s influence to try and give it a little bit more heart, but the network wanted crashes, jumps, car chases and all that stuff. David was actually threatening to quit the show because of it, but they eventually came to an agreement.”

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(Photo Credit: David Rogers)

One would imagine that “agreement” had something to do with money. “Probably,” Joe smiles, “but beyond that, there weren’t any problems. The truth is, David’s done a ton of work. He’s had a musical career in Europe, he’s done a lot of stage productions. He did The Young and the Restless in the ‘70s. He did Baywatch, which was much bigger than Knight Rider, but to this day Knight Rider is the work he’s most proud of. It’s what he has the fondest memories for. He loved the people that worked on the show, and even the motto that one man can make a difference. He’s been trying for 20 years to bring the show back successfully. It’s been brought back a couple of times, but it hasn’t been done right and hasn’t lasted. But to this day he’s still trying to get something off the ground.”

Our exploration of Knight Rider continues with a look at who’s who on the show, and the different versions of the concept that have followed over the years.