10 Fast Facts About Knight Rider

Knight Rider Opening Credits
Knight Rider Opening Credits

With its offbeat premise, synth soundtrack, and David Hasselhoff’s voluminous perm, Knight Rider is a worthy pick to land on the Mount Rushmore of ‘80s TV. Debuting in 1982, the show ran for four seasons and 90 episodes, with a number of TV movies and short-lived revivals to follow. To this day, the franchise continues to stay relevant as rumors of even more Knight Rider surface regularly. Here are 10 facts about Knight Rider.

1. THE SHOW WAS A MASHUP OF THE LONE RANGER AND CLASSIC SCI-FI.

Glen A. Larson had made a name for himself throughout television in the ‘70s and ‘80s as the creator of shows like Battlestar Galactica and Magnum P.I., and in 1982 one of his more unique ideas hit the screen in Knight Rider. While a talking car that helps fight crime sounds a bit bizarre (and it is), the series has its roots in a much more grounded TV classic.

"I wanted to do The Lone Ranger with a car," Larson said of the show. He went even further by saying, "If you think about him riding across the Plains and going from one town to another to help law and order, then K.I.T.T. becomes Tonto.”

The "good vs. evil" inspirations from The Lone Ranger were joined by Larson's background in sci-fi. In Hasselhoff’s autobiography, the actor states that HAL 9000 from 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey was the direct inspiration for K.I.T.T., while the red strobe lights that emblazoned the car's hood were a nod to the scanner lights that were the trademark of the Cylons from Larson’s Battlestar Galactica.

2. WILLIAM DANIELS FOUGHT FOR K.I.T.T. TO HAVE MORE OF A PERSONALITY.

When William Daniels first began working on Knight Rider, K.I.T.T. was set to sound more robotic and synthesized than the actor wanted. Instead, “I saw a chance for it to be amusing and bright,” Daniels recalled. “K.I.T.T. had to have human expression.” Soon, K.I.T.T. began to loosen up and show more of Daniels’s natural charm as the series progressed. 

3. LARSON GOT A HUGE CUT OF THE MERCHANDISE MONEY.

Larson’s business savvy and faith in his creation were rewarded beyond anyone’s expectations. When he was negotiating his deal with Universal, he nabbed himself a huge chunk of the merchandising rights. With Knight Rider’s popularity sustaining for long after it went off the air, Larson profited handsomely.

“I think I had the best deal in the history of television,” Larson said. “As the writer/creator I got 50-50 with the studio on all toys, models, T-shirts, and whatnot.”

These types of deals are virtually unheard of now, as Larson pointed out, “It was just before studios realized how profitable merchandising could be.”

4. WILLIAM DANIELS AND DAVID HASSELHOFF DIDN’T MEET UNTIL THE SHOW’S CHRISTMAS PARTY.

Though they made for a formidable duo on-screen, William Daniels and David Hasselhoff were never even in the same room together while the show was being made. They first met at the show’s Christmas party when Knight Rider was already an established hit.

“A guy walks over to my table and goes: ‘Hi I’m William Daniels, I play K.I.T.T.,’” Hasselhoff said in an interview with CBS. “And I say: 'Oh I’m David Hasselhoff and I play Michael.’ And he says: ‘Oh we have a hit don’t we?’ And that was our first conversation.”

5. DANIELS ISN’T FEATURED IN THE CREDITS AS K.I.T.T.

William Daniels’s name doesn’t appear in the opening or closing credits of Knight Rider throughout its run. The one story surrounding the decision is that Daniels wanted the audience to believe the car had a mind of its own and preserve the mystery. The plan backfired as Daniels was soon getting recognized on the streets where he lived as the voice of K.I.T.T.

6. DANIELS WORKED FOR LESS THAN AN HOUR PER EPISODE.

Though his voicework as K.I.T.T. was integral to the success of the show, Daniels was fairly far removed from the production when he would record his lines.

“I knocked off an episode in about 45 minutes. I never watched the episode while I would do the voice over,” Daniels said. “I would have the pages that involved K.I.T.T.—not even the entire show. Those pages would have David’s dialogue and then K.I.T.T.’s answers.”

Daniels’s process involved reading Haselhoff’s lines out loud in the recording booth, then answering them as K.I.T.T.

7. K.I.T.T. ALMOST WENT BY A DIFFERENT NAME.

K.I.T.T. stands for Knight Industries Two Thousand, based on the car’s fictional creator, Wilton Knight. The car went by another name when the series was early in its production: T.A.T.T., which stood for Trans Am Two Thousand.

When it came time to give a name to K.I.T.T.’s evil doppelganger, a completely different name was created in K.A.R.R. This stands for Knight Automated Roving Robot, and it was voiced by Peter Cullen, who was the man behind another talking vehicle: Optimus Prime from The Transformers cartoons and movies.

8. K.I.T.T. WENT THROUGH VARIOUS MODIFICATIONS AS THE SEASONS WENT ON.

During Knight Rider’s first two seasons, K.I.T.T. was based on an F-bodied Pontiac Trans Am with minimal alterations, and it was dressed up by Universal’s prop department. The major change were the red strobe lights to give the car “life” as it was interacting with Michael. But not much else made K.I.T.T. stand out from a standard Trans Am (Pontiac didn't even want them referring to the car as a Trans Am). The production would have around four different K.I.T.T. cars at a time, costing about $18,000 apiece to modify.

It was during production on season three, though, that K.I.T.T. got a bit of a facelift. Spoilers, wings, and new hood scoops were just some of the cosmetic additions that the legendary George Barris—who also designed Adam West’s Batmobile and The Munster Koach—added to the car. It took eight weeks to complete each car, but the new version set Knight Rider’s trademark set of wheels apart from anything else on the road.

9. THERE WAS A MODIFIED CAR TO SIMULATE A SELF-DRIVING FEATURE.

For scenes when K.I.T.T. had to appear to drive itself, Barris created a right-seat driving position inside the on-set car that dipped below the dashboard. From the passenger side, a stunt driver was then placed in a special seat that sat low enough to avoid detection on camera, but high enough to see where he was going. This was all part of Barris's job on the show. In addition to creating a more unique look for K.I.T.T. in later seasons, he was also in charge of creating different models of the car, all for the sake of specific stunts that could make for more unique action sequences.

10. THE SHOW’S THEME WAS BORROWED FROM AN 18TH CENTURY BALLET.

Knight Rider’s opening theme—composed by Stu Phillips—is one of the best the ‘80s has to offer, but its roots go further back than the synth stylings it embraces. It’s actually based on a selection from Léo Delibes’s ballet Sylvia. Specifically, “Cortège de Bacchus” from the third act.

Over the years, the song has been sampled by a number of artists, including Busta Rhymes and Lil' Kim. However, the song owes its longevity to its status as a ringtone. In 2005, Phillips won an award from BMI—a performing rights organization—for most downloaded ringtone. (Phillips shared the award with Lalo Schifrin’s Mission: Impossible theme.)

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.