Given David Hasslehoff’s bizarre European musical career, you might think that a Knight Rider episode centered around a very special concert would feature Hasslehoff singing and that it would be completely terrible. As it turns out, you’d be half right — “Knight Song” (sigh) is completely terrible, but at least Hasslehoff stays off stage.
The story begins with Michael Knight and RC3 (Reginald Cornelius III, F.L.A.G.’s mechanic and driver of the truck, if you don’t remember) totally blowing off an assignment in Detroit to stop by RC3’s hometown of Chicago to listen to a concert by a talented blind pianist. Is it Ray Charles?! No, it’s much-less-famous white person Charley Conners!
Charley is rockin’ out to a cover of “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” in warm up for an opening concert at a new theater created by local entrepreneur Josh Bevins, the creation of which has somehow singlehandedly rebuilt this whole Chicago neighborhood. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with four young thugs in business suits who have entered the theater to cause trouble.
Let me explain something for our younger readers (who may or may not be aware of this): the ‘80s were a dangerous place. Packs of young thugs roamed every single hour-long TV drama, ready to beat up anyone at any time. They invariably worked for rich white people who were determined to rule small towns, rule the town’s main factory, take over impoverished neighborhoods, bust unions; basically, if there was a little guy, there was an evil big guy who couldn’t wait to squash him in some way. And their minions were these packs of thugs.
Dressed in bad suits and with worse attitudes, the thugs tell Josh to sell the theater, and proceed to beat the crap out of him while trashing the place (no, they don’t beat up the blind piano player, although he is trapped by being on the foot-tall stage, so he just wanders back and forth yelling “What’s going on?!” over and over again.” Michael and RC3 — who have somehow been listening to the warm-up in KITT and heard the fracas — rush to the scene.
They take Josh to the hospital. When he wakes up, Michael offers to help, but Josh turns it down. He also refuses to go to the police. This is exceedingly dumb, but RC3 helps explain: Josh has come back to revitalize “the ghetto,” as he calls it, which means the people have to rise up to protect it – not the law enforcement who get paid to maintain order and prevent violence, and certainly not the dude with the talking car who’s sole job is to help people in need.
Michael still doesn’t understand, and neither should you. He’s ready to walk away, when Bonnie (KITT’s main engineer) reminds him that RC3 came from this neighborhood, and that he and his friends helped reassemble KITT in a previous episode — so they owe these people. Repaying car service is something Michael understands, and he agrees to help.
Luckily, Michael hit the “Aud/Vid Record” button when approaching the theater, and was able to get surveillance footage of the thugs leaving the scene (do not think too hard about how this was achieved). RC3 recognizes the head of the thugs as Keith Lawson, his old friend, and assumes he couldn’t be one of the bad guys. RC3 meets with Keith the next morning, and Keith couldn’t be more upfront about being an evil thug who hates cops and is determined to care for no one but himself, mainly because he says “I hate cops and I don’t care about anyone but myself.” RC3 begins to have doubts that his childhood friend is innocent.
Back at the theater, a group of workers is cleaning the place up. This does not include the five members of New Edition, who are dancing about on the stage with Charley while singing. Here's another history lesson: New Edition was one of the early prototypes for every five-member boy-band to emerge since. New Edition got crazy popular, and the group included Bobby Brown and the members of Bell Biv Devoe. When this episode of Knight Rider aired in 1985, they were arguably more famous than David Hasslehoff, and they were infinitely more famous than whoever the dude playing Charley Conners was. And yet they’re playing a mere clean-up crew, who happen to be singing one of their song while holding mops and brooms (but not using them). It’s just weird, is all.
When the song is over, Michael — who clearly enjoys New Edition’s pop over Conners’ generic piano rock — asks to speak to Charley; Charley asks if the New Edition "fellas" wouldn't mind making "some rhythm with brooms out front, huh, help clean up?” It’s super, super weird. It’s also an excuse for New Edition to meet KITT!
Once outside, the New Edition boys immediately ignore Charley’s request to make "broom rhythm” and instead start drumming on KITT and singing. KITT appreciates the music, the percussion less so, and tells the boys. No one is even slightly perturbed by the appearance of a talking car, although they are visibly disgusted when KITT tries to join in the singing. Apparently, someone didn’t bother to give KITT a sense of pitch, although they did include a “Polyphonic Synthesizer” option, which KITT utilizes to lay down a fat beat. The New Edition boys start singing along, and continue to fail to clean anything up.
Back inside, Charley tells Michael that Josh has snuck out of the hospital and is likely going to confront Eastside Realty. Perhaps doubting that a severely beaten old man will be able to defeat the same young thugs who beat the old guy up when he was ostensibly in his best condition, Michael and Charley race over in KITT, disappointing the New Edition who would much rather sing than clean.
Inside KITT, Charley is agog at the car’s abilities, so much so that he immediately decides to abandon Josh; while Michael goes up to confront the bad guys, Charley gets in the driver’s seat. See, he’s blind, so he can’t drive, but KITT can drive himself! In fact, he keeps passing a bewildered traffic cop, who is totally confused that a blind guy is driving a car! Hyuk hyuk! Whodathunk!
Now, think about this for a second. Charley is obviously not driving. He’s not even holding the steering wheel. So in reality, he is simply sitting in a car, being driven, just as he would be at any other time in his life. And since he’s blind, I can’t imagine what the difference would be, to him, between sitting in the front driver’s side set versus sitting in the front passenger’s seat. With the exception of the placement of the cup holders, Charley is experiencing a sensation that is completely like every other time he’s gotten in a car. However, he enjoys it — he shrieks and laughs and basically does a very solid rendition of the Nic Cage School of Acting Like a Lunatic ®.
Also, the cop sees a guy in a car wearing sunglasses and automatically assumes he’s blind. Yes, we know Charley is blind, but there’s no way the cop should, if only because sunglasses are occasionally worn by people who aren’t blind. What I’m saying is that the cop has some issues regarding the disabled he needs to work through.
Meanwhile, Michael has headed up to the realty company, and immediately gets in a brawl with the four thugs. It’s a decent enough fight scene by 1985 TV/Hasslehoff standards, but it ends when Michael jumps out the fourth story window, lands on top of a truck completely unharmed, and then drives off with Charley in Kitt.
Knowing that Lawson and his goons don’t have the backing to buy the theater, Michael realizes they’re working for someone tryingto buy up their neighborhood for some purpose. After interrupting yet another jam session between KITT and New Edition, Michael has Kitt check the property records of every building in the neighborhood — turns out everything else is owned by a G. Sandford company, which has turned countless neighborhoods into shopping malls and industrial parks, one of the most disgusting and evil crimes a person can commit on an ‘80s TV series. Michael decides to pay the nefarious Mr. G. Sandford a visit.
But what’s this? Mr. G. Sandford is a lady! A lady? In charge of a construction company? And an evil construction company at that! Actually, Michael isn’t fazed by this at all, but it is played for a surprise. Anyways, Ms. Sandford tells Michael all her old Chicago neighborhood takeovers are perfectly legal, and that she has nothing to do with any business-suit wearing thugs who like to wander around areas she’s trying to buy up all the property in and beat people up and break shit until they sell. Total coincidence.
Meanwhile, RC3 confronts his “buddy” Keith again about why he’s terrorizing the neighborhood; Keith’s response is to punch RC3 in the gut and have his lesser thugs beat the crap out of him while he has a meeting with Ms. Sandford. Thanks to the mess he’s made, she gives Keith 24 hours to get the theater deal done.
Back at the theater, an old man delivers the beaten RC3 to Michael while KITT teaches the New Edition boys a little something about classical music. Knowing that big money is behind the attempted takeover, Michael, Josh and RC3 realize a lot of thugs are going to be coming to fuck up the theater later that day, even though they shouldn’t know about Sandford’s time limit or any reason why the bad guys would be bringing extra muscle (they’ve been doing fine on their own so far).
Since Josh is refusing to go to the cops, Michael decides to recruit everybody in the neighborhood to fight the evil forces of capitalism that are encroaching on their homes. Josh collects people, RC3 pulls a Blues Brother-esque car-with-bullhorn announcement tour and tells the neighborhood that yes, everything in their lives depends on making sure a concert by a little-known musician at the nearby theater occurs as planned. Keith and his goons see the “army” assembling, and know that it’s time to take drastic measures.
Here’s how this standoff breaks down: Two cars of thugs arrive at the theater, only to be pelted with garbage by the residents who are posted on the tops of the buildings; Michael and KITT don’t help, all because of this weird thing about making them invested in their neighborhood (they have homes they’d be kicked out of, so I think they’d be invested already, so all Michael is doing is not assisting them); Keith arrives with his secret weapon — a garbage truck, which he plans to drive through the people and the theater, wrecking it. This is when Michael steps in and KITT drives in, racing in front of the theater; Keith, who seconds earlier was prepared to drive through a building and a crowd of human beings, jerks the steering wheel to avoid the black Pontiac, crashes into a newsstand and comes to a complete stop.
The residents, armed with sticks and clubs, immediately surround all the thugs and the “war” is over. Michael finally convinces Josh to call the cops — why it’s okay now and not before is baffling to me, perhaps Josh isn’t prepared to set up his own prison system in the theater basement. And then the end. Just like that.
What Did We Learn?
• Do you guys remember at all how completely insane the Knight Rider opening is? First of all, the music is still completely awesome, but here’s the opening narration: “Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.” That's some avant-garde shit for a show about a man with a talking car.
• Watching David Hasslehoff “rock out” in KITT while hearing Charley Conners, I feel like we could have predicted his entire musical career.
• Why the fuck does KITT have a “Polyphonic Synthesizer”? I mean, seriously? Who decided that KITT might need to lay down a fat beat for somebody while fighting crime and evil? This is like some Batman-level of psychotic preparedness here.
• Although the cop that assumes the guy driving the car while wearing sunglasses is blind, Charley is kind of a dick for driving past the cop like four times in a row. Now that I think about it, this is extra weird, because Charley even tells the cop “Lovely day, officer!” to fuck with him. How did he know the cop was there? He’s blind.
• The episode ends without any justice whatsoever coming to Ms. Sandford, which, in a sense, makes this possibly the most realistic Knight Rider episode of all time.
• For the whole final fight scene, RC3 is wearing a belly shirt. I wake up every day thankful that the ‘80s are over.