Knight Rider was a 1980s television series about an artificially intelligent supercar named KITT, (short for Knight Industries Two Thousand). KITT was a black Pontiac Trans-Am that was nearly indestructible, resistant to bullets, fire, or crashes from other vehicles. Programmed with an overriding mission to protect human life and outfitted with the latest in computer technology, KITT was not only capable of self-operation but had microwave jammers, flamethrowers, infrared sensors, and other weapons that allowed it to thwart the activities of criminals. Even more impressive was KITT’s ability to verbally communicate with humans in a matter of fact and sometimes humorous way (using the voice of William Daniels). KITT maintained a special friendship with Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff), an ex-cop turned private crime fighter and employee of the Foundation of Law and Government. Other cast regulars included Edward Mulhare who played Devon Miles, head of the FLAG foundation, and Patricia MacPherson as Dr. Bonnie Barstow, a scientist working for the foundation responsible for the programming of KITT.
Jason Bateman plays fourteen-year-old Doug Wainwright who is being chased by two criminals.
One of the best episodes was during the third season. Jason Bateman, in one of his earliest TV roles, guest stars as Doug Wainwright, a fourteen-year-old boy who is alienated from his mom, stepdad, his school, and society in general due to the death of his father in the previous year. He spends much of his time escaping to the back hills and hiking around there, an activity that he and his father often did together. The only thing in town that Doug still connects with is his little league baseball team which is sponsored by the family business, Wainwright Nursery. Doug plays shortstop on the team and always wears his Wainwright Warriors baseball cap, satin team jacket, and red high top chucks. Doug first gets into trouble in the episode when he accidentally stumbles into the rendezvous spot for two dangerous criminals, Bobby Pell and Julius Korso (Anthony James and Karl Johnson). Bobby and Julius have just stolen a large amount of plastique explosives from a construction firm that was demolishing a large building for a new housing project cosponsored by the FLAG foundation. The thieves cleverly used the explosion as a diversion and escape in a red Cherokee SUV. But Devon who is at the site, calls Michael and KITT who are headed to the beach on their day off, to intercept the thieves. Eventually Michael and KITT catch up with the thieves, who try to escape first by using a nitrous oxide fuel boost. When that fails to separate them from their pursuers, Bobby starts throwing out explosive charges. The charges don’t stop KITT but they do eventually cause a large power pole tower to crash around the car, and the electrical charges from the power lines cause KITT’s memory to short out. KITT is still functional as a car, but he doesn’t remember a thing about Michael or any of the other people from the foundation. Michael, who is dazed and in shock from the explosion, tries to get back into KITT, but KITT just drives away. Bobby and Julius are able to escape to their rendezvous spot where they ditch the red Cherokee for their other vehicle. This is the point in the story where we first see Doug, and when he realizes that Bobby and Julius have spotted him, he runs back into the woods to hide. Bobby and Julius chase after him in hot pursuit, but Doug is able to elude them, and while hiding overhears some of their plans. Later Doug returns to the rendezvous point to see if he can scavenge anything from the Cherokee. Just as he is looking through the car, Michael drives up in a jeep. Doug runs away again, but Michael is able to catch him and tries to get Doug to reveal what he knows. Doug, who doesn’t want to trust anyone, denies that he saw the two thieves or KITT. The only information that Michael is able to get from Doug is about his baseball team, the Wainwright Warriors. Michael leaves, but he has a gut feeling that Doug is not telling him everything he knows.
Doug is surprised when KITT starts to follow him.
After leaving Michael, Doug is walking through the hills again when all of a sudden he notices a black car pursuing him. “Who’s in there? Where did you come from?” Doug asks and tries to run away, but the car keeps following him and then asks him for help. Dumbfounded that the car can talk to him, Doug helps KITT find a hiding place. Then he is allowed to get inside and see the control panel and the two become friends. Meanwhile, events are unfolding that will soon dramatically affect Doug. Bobby and Julius have hired an explosive expert to show them how to blow up a nearby dam so that they can pull off another brazen robbery. When Bobby mentions their run-in with Doug, he tells them that they had better get rid of him if they don’t want to get caught. So they go back to the hills and look for him. They spot Doug with KITT and go after him in hot pursuit. Luckily Doug is able to escape from them by getting into KITT and escaping across a ravine by using his turbo boost. Back at the FLAG foundation, Devon expresses his great concern about the explosives and tells Michael that his number one priority should be to track them. FLAG even has intelligence about the explosive expert being in town. But Michael is more concerned about KITT, and wants to find him first. Dr. Barstow gives Michael a new memory module for KITT which will restore what has been erased; the trick is to find KITT and then persuade KITT to let it be installed.
Doug and his parents having dinner at their house.
Michael is sure that Doug is the key to finding KITT, and is able to track him down through the name Wainwright Warriors. He goes to Doug’s house to again try and find out what he knows, but Doug is still angry at adults, and especially his step father, and even though he knows that Michael has some connection with KITT, he is unwilling to confide in Michael. Later that evening Michael goes to the hotel where the explosives expert is staying, and tries to get him to tell where the bad guys are, but again is unsuccessful.
Doug rides his bicycle to his parents’ store.
Michael realizes that his only recourse is to put a surveillance on Doug, and see where he goes the next day. Sure enough, early the next morning at 5:00 AM, Doug sneaks out of the house to go to KITT. He gets on his bike and rides away quickly, but Michael is able to follow him in the jeep he has been using.
Doug climbs the fence into his parents’ gardening business.
Doug’s destination is his parents’ nursery, where he has hidden KITT in a shed. Once he gets there, he quickly parks his bike and climbs over the tall fence by climbing on some stacked paving stones.
Doug and KITT.
Inside the nursery, Doug meets up with KITT again. KITT and Doug have a poignant conversation. KITT starts by saying that he has been thinking about what Doug said about home and wants to know it he has one. For the first time Doug begins to acknowledge that Michael might be important to KITT, when he tells KITT that Michael has been asking around about KITT, and says that KITT probably belongs to him. KITT asks Doug what Michael looks like. Doug describes him and says that he was looking for KITT around the dam. KITT asks what a dam is. Doug laughs at first and then remembers that KITT has lost his memory. Doug describes a dam as “a big thing that holds water.” KITT responds that he thought that was a bathtub. Doug replies, “It’s a little bigger than a bathtub.” “Losing one’s memory is so embarrassing,” KITT replies.
Jason is kidnapped by the criminals.
Unfortunately for Doug, Bobby and Julius have been staking out the Wainwright Nursery and when they see him climbing into the nursery, they go after him. While talking with KITT, Doug hears some noise outside the tent where KITT is hidden. As soon as he looks outside, he is grabbed by Bobby and Julius. Although he struggles to get away, Doug is no match for the two adults, and they take him away in their truck. Michael tries to pursue them, but a couple of gunshots keep him away. But Michael has found KITT again, and although KITT still doesn’t recognize him, Michael is able to get the replacement memory module installed underneath KITT. Suddenly KITT is back to his old self again, and he and Michael quickly move to pursue the two criminals and help Doug.
Julius takes Doug down the dam embankment and ties him to a tree.
Inside Bobby and Julius’ truck, Doug is in serious danger. His hands have been tied behind his back and his mouth taped shut. The criminals begin to plant an explosive charge at the dam and part of their plan is to have Doug blown up in the explosion. Julius drags Doug down an embankment near the bomb and ties him to a utillity pole. The two criminals take off with only a few minutes to go on the timer before the bomb is set to go off. Luckily for Doug and the surrounding town, Michael and KITT are in hot pursuit, and are able to locate the bomb. KITT is able to stop the bomb by frying the timer mechanism with an intense radar wave from the microwave jammer. They locate where Doug is tied up, and Michael rescues him and brings him up the embankment to KITT.
Jason and Michael escape in KITT.
Once inside KITT, they take off after the criminals, catch up to their speeding vehicle, fly over it with turbo boost and force it to crash. Stunned by the crash and cowed by Michael’s gun, the two crawl out of the burning truck and surrender. For all the grief he went through, Michael gives Doug the honor of making a citizen’s arrest of Bobby and Julius.
The experiences that Doug had with KITT, Michael, and the bad guys end up changing Doug’s attitude about things. Doug realizes that he has a lot to live for and that things like school are important. Best of all, he has a new friend in KITT, who promises that now that he has is memory back, he won’t forget to stop by and see Doug again soon.
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