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When I was a child growing up in the early ‘80s, with a few exceptions, the only night that I could watch primetime television was on Friday nights. The other nights of the week it was in bed by 8:00 p.m. on school nights and Saturday evenings were usually spent out doing something with the family, but Friday nights I was allowed to stay up as late as my eyes could stay open and that usually meant watching all of the evening’s offerings while waiting for the late night, horror double feature with host Fritz the Nite Owl that came on directly after the eleven o’clock news.

Knight Rider: Season Two
I have a lot of fond memories of the programs that aired in those hours between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on Friday nights and thankfully through the magic of DVD many of those shows, and many of those late night horror films for that matter, have steadily become available again over the past couple of years for me to relive those days in a wave of nostalgia. Last year, Universal Home Video made the first season of my favourite Friday night show, Knight Rider, available on DVD for the first time, and now along comes the complete second season of my childhood favourite.

For those who grew up with the show, saw the series when it first aired, or watched it in syndication over the years on various television stations, there really is no need to run down the basic plot of the show, but for those who didn’t and haven’t, I’ll indulge in a quick and dirty rundown of the plot behind the series. Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) was a police detective thought killed when betrayed on an undercover assignment. Given a new face and identity by dying billionaire Wilton Knight, he now works for the Foundation of Law and Government with the task of routing out evil that is above the law. Aiding Michael in his exploits against crime is K.I.T.T., a super car equipped with amazing abilities and artificial intelligence that enables the invulnerable automobile to take on a life of its own.

While I was watching this set, I began to notice that most of the memories I have of the show from some twenty odd years ago actually were born out of this second season of episodes. The ninety minute season opener in particular, “Goliath”, pits the team of Michael and K.I.T.T. against an arch nemesis unlike any they had faced during the previous year—Wilton Knight’s evil, previously imprisoned son, Garth Knight, (also played by David Hasselhoff) and his monstrous eighteen-wheeler, Goliath. The dastardly duo would later return to battle the heroes again several episodes later during the course of the season’s other ninety minute episode as well, ‘Goliath Returns’, only this time teaming up with another of Michael’s previously seen enemies, Adrianne Margeaux (Ann Turkel), criminal mastermind extraordinaire, in attempting to exact some measure of revenge on the crime fighting duo. There are a few other moments forever encapsulated in my cranium too, such as K.I.T.T. travelling over water, Michael facing off against K.I.T.T. when the super car’s memory is erased, and in another episode, Michael getting his turn at amnesia and reverting back to the identity he held before the Knight Foundation came into his life, and at best these memories are a bit sketchy, but still bring a smile to my face whenever I think of them.

Knight Rider: Season Two
Seeing some of the episodes now though, Hasselhoff as Garth Knight looks like a reject from The Pirate Movie with his wide open shirt, gold earring, and ‘evil’ moustache and goatee combination, while Goliath is little more than a tractor trailer with missiles. And all of the other memorable moments from the show locked away in my head seem like bad plot devices or really cheesy gimmicks now. What was cool and memorable for a seven year-old kid back in the early ‘80s just seems kind of silly now, and unfortunately so does much of the show.

A lot of the episodes aren’t all that great and there are a lot of turkeys to be had, but some are entertaining and fun enough that much can be overlooked. Episodes such as the previously mentioned ‘Goliath’ and ‘Goliath Returns’ are fun to see with Hasselhoff playing two different characters even if the evil performance is hammily overdone, as is his turn in ‘Let It Be Me’ when he goes undercover as a rock star, and watching a couple of bumbling car thieves try to steal K.I.T.T. in ‘Custom K.I.T.T.’ is pretty amusing too. The stunt work for the show was always first rate for the time, and certain episodes, such as ‘Merchants of Death’ and ‘Speed Demons’, showcase some of the fine stunt driving that the series was regularly known for. Episodes such as ‘Mouth of the Snake’, however, are better left forgotten, especially since this two-parter doesn’t include a lot of Michael and K.I.T.T. and was actually a pilot in sheep’s clothing for another, albeit short-lived, program from Knight Rider creator Glen A. Larson. Also, it’s a lot of fun to play spot the celebrity and point out some of the guest stars and bit players who have since gone on to bigger and better things, as in the case of one Ms. Geena Davis.

Knight Rider: Season Two
It’s not that Knight Rider is a bad show, quite the contrary, but it is a bit dated twenty plus years later when audiences demand coherent, realistic plots and abhor inconsistencies in their television programs. Kids will probably still love Knight Rider just as I did years ago because I haven’t met a child yet that doesn’t think talking cars are really neat, and those of us who grew up with the show can watch it now with kind of a grin while remembering back to the nights on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and all of a handful of channels to choose from when you had just an antenna to pick up stations with. If you were a fan of the show, you really can’t go wrong with picking up this second season set if, for nothing else, just a bit of television nostalgia and good, clean fun, and, thanks to Universal Home Video, both you and I can watch all twenty-two—twenty-four if separating out the three, ninety minute episodes—season two episodes in all of their glory on our favourite format.

Video
Knight Rider: Season Two is presented on DVD in the 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio that it was originally televised in during the 1983-1984 season. Universal Home Video has delivered several quality video transfers for older television programs with releases such as Miami Vice, Buck Rogers In the 21st Century, and Battlestar Galactica to name just a few, and this set continues that trend. A few instances of grain and blemishes occur occasionally and at times the picture seems a little dark or murky, but it is more of a problem with the film stock and the source material than with the transfer to DVD itself. This is probably the best the series has ever looked in any format or televised presentation, and while naturally not on par with recently made television programs, a very good video transfer overall.

Knight Rider: Season Two
Audio
Knight Rider: Season Two contains a single Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 audio track in English with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. While there is little to complain about with the audio, there is also little to rave about it either. There are no major problems with it and it’s perfectly adequate in emulating the experience of watching the series as it aired over twenty years ago, but at the same time it would have been nice to hear the show’s signature theme music in 5.1 or, at the very least, in stereo. This isn’t exactly an audio track to show off your home theatre system with, but it does its job all the same and doesn’t detract from the viewing experience either.

Extras
Sadly, unlike Knight Rider: Season One before it, the set doesn’t contain any special features save for some trailers on disc one, side A for Universal Season Two releases of The A-Team, Magnum P.I., and Knight Rider itself along with a trailer for Meet the Fockers on DVD.

Universal did, however, abandon the digipak design and replaced it with three THINpak DVD cases for the set’s three, dual-layered, double-sided discs which is much better for disc care and hold up over time better than the usual digipak packaging. The only real disappointment in the packaging is the inclusion of three, DVD-18 discs instead of a six, DVD-9 discs for the set, which would have given the package maximum protection from wear and tear, but at least they got it halfway right this time.

Universal has also kept their nice, animated menu systems intact with this release, which features a play all feature on each disc, sub menus for each episode with chapter stops, and a synopsis of each episode as well. Too many times television programs on DVD miss the most basic of options on their menus, such as a menu for chapter stops, and it’s great that Universal does so for their releases and has continued to not cut corners in this regard.

Knight Rider: Season Two
Overall
Knight Rider: Season Two is a fun ride for anyone looking for a way to hitchhike back to the early ‘80s in T.V. Land, and while the show, its plots, and its gimmicks may seem fairly outdated by today’s standards, it still has enough energy and excitement to pull it through. Universal Home Video’s treatment of the series continues to be decent with good video and audio, but I was a little let down by the lack of extras in this set, especially when held in comparison to Knight Rider: Season One. Overall, if you’re like me and grew up with the series you are more than likely going to take a kinder and less cynical stance on the series and this DVD set than someone viewing the program for the first time, but this release really isn’t for those people anyway so pop it in and enjoy.


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