Knight Rider (84 episodes, 1982-86)
Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) fights crime with the help of KITT, an artificially intelligent computer coupled to a virtually indestructible supercar, usually saving a damsel in distress or two along the way. Or, as creator Glen A Larson once described it, “The Lone Ranger with a car”.
Topped and tailed with shots of KITT driving through a purple-hued desert landscape, the intro features clips of the show’s stars (Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare and Patricia McPherson) and action sequences from the show with shots of KITT’s exterior (a customised 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am) and futuristic-looking interior.
The heavily electronic theme tune was composed by Stu Phillips, whose work also includes the opening music for The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the original Battlestar Galactica. He also produced songs for a variety of recording artists, including Nina Simone.
Halfway through season one, the intro was revamped with new visuals reflecting KITT’s redesign and also including a new voiceover narration by actor Richard Basehart (who had featured in the pilot episode):
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.
Basehart’s voiceover was the final piece of the puzzle. Without it, the original intro was merely very good; with it, it became iconic.
Knight Rider’s intro was revised slightly each season with new visual clips, although Phillips’ theme music remained essentially unchanged.
Below are the original intro and the one used in season three. Note the lack of narration, and the absence of a credit for McPherson.
And for a comparison of how it is possible to take a classic original and turn it into a completely soulless mess, here are the opening titles used during the first half of the first – and only – season of the 2008 reboot of the show.
Do you think the intro for this show deserves the status ‘classic’? And do you have a favourite of your own? Watch out for more ‘Classic TV intros’ posts coming soon.