Welcome back, Michael Knight!
Rarely do '80s icons improve over time. Our favorite rockers find their knees and voices creaking. Those teen heartthrobs now more closely resemble the pasty and pudgy physique of the Pillsbury Doughboy. And the TV shows and movies we worshiped are remade, but usually only with the heart and funny bone as key missing ingredients.
So savor the total cheestacular satisfaction that you'll find if you decide to check out the new Knight Rider series on NBC, debuting tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
Here are some observations after checking out the season premiere in advance:
FIRST SOME HOMEWORK: If you missed the made-for-TV movie back in February, you can still catch it for free on Hulu.com. Watch it before the show to figure out the origin of the new K.I.T.T. and its new driver, "Michael Traceur" (Justin Bruening).
THE FEEL: The new show is like Mission: Impossible meets Beverly Hills Cop meets James Bond. Throw in a lot of sexy skin shots and you have "Baywatch in a car." But we're shallow ... so it works.
THE STORY: "Mike Traceur" is a former Special Forces soldier who served in Iraq. He's chosen by the car's inventor, "Charles Graiman" (Bruce Davison), to protect his daughter "Sarah" (Deanna Russo), who -- wouldn't you know it -- happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Why Mike? Because he's the son of "Michael Knight," who drove the original K.I.T.T. 20 years ago! (Didn't see THAT coming, did you?) Teamed up with the FBI, Traceur sheds his name and identity (taking on the "Michael Knight" moniker) and joins a secret organization to fight the bad guys. (Oh, my heart is beating so fast now. And not from all the Pudding Pops I ate while watching the show!)
SPEAKING OF K.I.T.T.: No longer a Pontiac Trans-Am, the new Knight Industries Three Thousand is a Mustang (a promotional courtesy of Ford Motors, naturally). With computer screens that magically pop into the windshield and an exterior skin that can repair itself through some bizarre bio-technology, it's the car we should have been dreaming about back in the '80s while we were sleeping in geometry class with our faces planted in our Trapper Keepers.
THE VOICE: I prefer Val Kilmer as the voice of K.I.T.T to the '80s version powered by William Daniels. Kilmer is smart without being smarmy, still getting an occasional zinger ("Michael, why are you speaking Pig Latin ... incorrectly?") but with a reassuring and comforting warmth that fits the tone of the made-over show. Kilmer hasn't sounded so human since 1985's Real Genius.
THE INTRIGUE: There are plenty of backstories here that will develop over time. Michael can't remember large portions of his service in Iraq, and his allies in the super-secret SSC organization might not be the friends he thinks they are. Just enough to keep viewers on their toes.
THE LAUGHS: The show leans on the supporting cast to provide the comic relief. Look for Knight Industries' back-office nerds -- played by Smith Cho and Paul Campbell -- to get most of the laughs.
THE HOFF: Oh yes, David Hasselhoff -- can't forget about him. The Hoff makes a short cameo in the pilot movie, a beautiful entrance framed by rays of sunshine and chirping birds and angelic harps. Will we see of him during the series? As Hoff tells son Michael, "I hope so."
[AP Photo/NBC, Mitchell Haaseth]