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Making Knight Rider deep and melodramatic - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Making Knight Rider deep and melodramatic
Well, in my last post, I cheered that the Knight Rider movie had chosen to go cheesy and tacky, just like the original series, but now, I've seen the light. I realize that it should have taken the Bionic Woman route and tried to capture the gritty realism of a life in law enforcement, and the psychic angst of being ripped from one's normal life. In fact, several old shows from the '70s and '80s could be updated this way!

Knight Rider, of course, is the first one I thought of here. What angst with young Mike Traceur--losing his mother after learning his father was really a hero who gave up life with his family for the greater good... and is it really the greater good? Isn't that just a sham? The Knight Foundation is deeply corrupt, as he learns once he's inextricably tied to it. His father was duped. Now, he must go on the run with KITT, who has had an existential crisis when his programming seems contradicted by the behavior of the very people who did it. Further, he discovers that his soul was stolen from a pretty, emo young boy who is being held captive in the Knight headquarters, and the ongoing arc is about trying to rescue him. Mike has Sarah inside the Foundation, as her relationship with her father jitters apart because she realizes the depth of his depravity. Yeah... and in the series finale, Sarah and Mike climb into KITT, and he drives over the edge of the cliffs along Route 1 in Maine, flinging them into the cold North Atlantic, as a drizzly rain falls around them. Cut to the Knight Foundation, where they've kidnapped Mike's unknown son, and started integrating his personality into yet another car... EEEP!

Eight Is Enough: The Bradfords come to the harsh realization that overpopulation has destroyed the economy. None of them can find work, and the environment is slowly poisoning them. One by one, we watch them fall ill and die, until only Nicholas is left, and he vows not to continue the wasteful lifestyle that brought them all to ruin.

Charlie's Angels: Wealthy Charlie, through his slightly sinister agent, Bosley, recruits girls from rehab centers and juvenile detention facilities, and through his Svengali-like power, brainwashes them into the life of vigilantes. He only picks beautiful girls, because he also has Bosley send them to him, blindfolded, so he can have his way with them. When new girl Dakota is recruited, she is powerfully reminded of her abused youth, and this opens her eyes to what's happening. Instead of running, she decides to take down the whole rotten enterprise and rescue her friends.

Three's Company: Jack, a young chef struggling with his sexuality and rejected by his parents, moves in with the drug-addled rock star Janet, who has a rent-controlled loft, and her troubled sister, model Chrissi. Homophobic landlord Mr. Furley is determined to end their sweet life in the building, and forces them into humiliating hard labor to keep him from revealing their secrets to the press.

The Six-Million Dollar Man: Following the stunning success of The Bionic Woman remake, of course, they need to follow up with the story of Steve Austin. A test pilot who discovers corruption in the highest realms of government, he survives an attempt on his life (via a sabotaged plane), only to be rebuilt--"better, stronger"--by the very people who did it. They manipulate his mind so he doesn't remember what he discovered, but as the series progresses, he begins to discover the real agenda of Oscar and the others...

The Facts of Life: Eastland School is the last hope of the hopeless, a place where the desperate are sent when everything else short of the legal system has failed. Blair, a neglected rich girl, has done everything she can to attract her parents' attention, including a drunk driving accident with horrible, haunting consequences. Working class Jo couldn't stop her increasing violent posturing. "Tootie," who got her nickname for doing a whole lot of tooting of cocaine, is bipolar, and Natalie has suffered from an eating disorder since her mother was sent to jail for embezzlement. Mrs. Garrett, the tough-minded headmistress, uses extreme, but effective, measures... but is she really on their side?

Surely, many other empty-headed old shows could be improved like this. The Love Boat, The Waltons, Family Ties, Growing Pains, The Dukes of Hazzard, Diff'rent Strokes... why the Emmy opportunities are endless!

What kinds of ways could we improve these and any other shows whose producers clearly never saw their full potential for exploring the gritty realities of life?
25 comments or Leave a comment
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: February 24th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was rather disappointed that the obligatory scene of a young punk trying to steal the car didn't make it into the movie!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 24th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, my gosh. You're right. Maybe they had to cut it for time, since it would have bitten into the lingering shots of the tail lights. ;p
marikenobi From: marikenobi Date: February 24th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Shhh... not that's a spoiler for the season premiere! They can't put everything in the pilot!! ;)
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: February 24th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
...Or the signature zip-zap moving lights on the hood.
obsfuscation From: obsfuscation Date: February 25th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
KITT's a Cylon!... as I said to my husband as we watched it. We TIVO'ed it "for laughs" and shamelessly watched the whole thing. Any word on when the series starts?
marikenobi From: marikenobi Date: February 24th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Now do everyone a favor and erase this... otherwise... you have just given the networks the next 2 fall seasons lineups!
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: February 24th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice! I know there's a way to make the A-Team wrongfully accused/made scapegoats for abusing civilians in Iraq or something and then going A-WOL and becoming true mercenaries -- with Murdoch really having PTSD, Face being a true Sexaholic, etc....I'm just not in the zone that you are for these summaries.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: February 24th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yeah, and in this version, somebody has to have lost a limb and when they fight people, there has to be actual bloody, gory death.
donnaimmaculata From: donnaimmaculata Date: February 24th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
The A-Team was the first show that came into my mind, too.

Hannibal has Multiple Personality Disorder (which is why he's so good at disguises) and B.A. is gay. And fancies Murdoch - secretly, because he'd rather die than give in into these urges. This is also why he's afraid of flying, because in his mind "flying" is connoted with "Murdoch" and it brings out all the guilt and shame and angst.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: February 24th, 2008 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOL. I was going to make B.A. gay too! And I was trying to decide which one of them was going to be the IT (Computer) whiz, since that is a necessity in this day and age.
donnaimmaculata From: donnaimmaculata Date: February 24th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wasn't there always a woman around? She could be the computer whiz whom they call when they need to break in into some high-security IT system.
alkari From: alkari Date: February 25th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)
*Sigh* There's clearly something wrong with me and my TV watching. I think I saw maybe a dozen episodes of Knight Rider , where the car was definitely the best actor, but apart from that, I've never watched any of these shows. Well, I think I managed about 15 mins of Charlie's Angels before turning off as it was so ho-hum boring, but that's all.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 25th, 2008 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Hee, yes, not exactly high-brow. I haven't exactly watched most of them religiously. (The Dukes of Hazzard and The A-Team were actually forbidden to appear on my mother's television sets when I was a child--not necessarily forbidden for me to watch them, but she was horrified at the idea of Bo, Luke, and Confederate-flag bedecked car in her living room--so I only saw bits and pieces at friends' houses, and never thought I was missing much.) I mostly remember Charlie's Angels from the more recent movies with Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu, and mostly because they're funny riffs on the subject.

But I did get saturated with the tube. Saturdays for The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, M*A*S*H for an hour a night, the anonymous sitcoms... ah, so many things to mine for craptastic Very Special Episodes!
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 25th, 2008 05:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Er... the whole post is tongue and cheek, of how to make these obnoxiously over-the-top with the "gritty realism" so in vogue among producers these days. Gritty realism appears to be junior high level angsting about how ZOMG!AWFUL everything is, and it's all a syndrome.

I like KR just as it is, thanks. ;p Stupid, silly, frivolous, and completely Velveeta.

And it's only plagiarism if you use the exact expression of an idea. The idea itself, not so much.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 25th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I think you're right, but they're certainly not what I'd think of in the context of "realism" as used by producers. Most of what they do doesn't add depth. It just adds tics and paranoid garbage-head crap that you can find in the crazier tabloids. In other words, not characterization, but lazy things you do instead of bothering to do characterization. Broad strokes of black and gray instead of fine shading. I saw the beginning of Bionic Woman, and it was just... so... bad. Jaime Summers was better characterized when they were just doing fluff, because they weren't leaning on ye olde angst crutch. They had to give her a personality instead of a social worker's case file.
From: walkerhound Date: March 7th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Don’t forget conspiracy ya got to have that.

Life in a small town post nuclear Armageddon...
Stranded on a deserted island...

All totally boring situations better through in some sort of grand conspiracy other wise it will be all boring.
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From: (Anonymous) Date: February 25th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
And we could get the truth behind Gilligan's Island. Mr. Howell had made his fortune in smuggling and other criminal activities. So, when the Feds were on to them, he decided to go into hiding. Of course, Skipper (notice he's only known by his codename, the real one probably has a list of felonies attached to it that even Mary Anne and Ginger couldn't be oblivious to) was his right hand man. He started for Mr. Howell as a vicious enforcer but worked his way up to trusted aid.

The Professor, as they called him, was actually an innocent dupe who never knew how his many inventions were being used for criminal enterprises. They brought him along to keep the police from getting his testimony. He may even really believe the shpiwrecked story Skipper has been feeding him.

Of course, they weren't going into exile without a little, ahem, "companionship." Ginger, starlet wannabe, has a history of rich men and bit parts. Jaded and cynical, she knows all about the dark side of Skipper's business and couldn't care less so long as he keeps the designer gowns coming.

Mary Anne, a young innocent straight from the farm, she came to Hawaii seeking a brighter future only to get sucked into the Big Island's seemy underside, even if she hasn't quite realized it yet. The story focuses on the slow corruption of innocence as she realizes what she's gotten herself into and what's expected of her. Her only ally is the equally naive and innocent Gilligan, but his mental simplicity makes him more a liability than an assett . . . or is he?

Gilligan. Pure innocence or something more sinister? Exactly how "innocent" are all those accidents he causes? And why is it that the rare visitors to the island who don't seem to be hand in glove to Howell's criminal enterprises remain completely silent about it when they return? Do they return? The horror builds as we begin to realize there's a trail of corpses leading right to one man and Mary Anne might be next in line . . . .

From: (Anonymous) Date: February 25th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and almost forgot one of the essentials for a serious Knight Rider : KITT meets one of the earlier prototypes and sparks fly, but is there something Christine isn't telling him?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2008 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)
LMAO. ;p

Mrs. Howell, of course, is an abused spouse, now neglected as she ages, in favor of the young Ginger...
summoner_lenne9 From: summoner_lenne9 Date: February 26th, 2008 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
This is off topic (Being born in 91 and having never watched much TV I know not a squat about 80'd television, least of all Knight Rider though you're the second person on my flist to mention the movie, so I can't add to this discussion) but I was just looking up Stray so I went to the big Shifts/Teddy verse page- and see a category for Safe with the most depressing summary EVER.

I literally had a heart attack, especially on the- Begun on 2/3.

Of course there was nothing on the site- I know that of course, that it wouldn't be up there and not on your lj, and you've mention since past 2/3 that you're completly stuck on it...

But I had a heart attack.

I think that may be the problem though- the depressing summary. That the entire story may depress you so much you have no real motivation to write it *Shouldn't talk though*

.... Well this has been supremely off topic *wanders off*

*Umm, also, did you ever see the link to the Ruthless picture I drew?*

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2008 07:13 am (UTC) (Link)
I really did start it that day. I just ditched what I had. I started it again last week, and ditched it again. ;p I didn't think anyone was actually using that page, and forgot that I'd made space for it. I keep expecting to get over the depression of looking at it! It's stupid. It's just a damned book, and I should power through it. But this summer was just a bad time for me, and losing my entire house of thematic cards--that looking to hope instead of despair was a saving grace which would turn away fate--didn't help much. Blah. Just have to get over it, I guess.

I did click to your pictures--I just actually responded to your comment. I clicked, and my connection, well... It took ages to connect, and by the time it mostly got through, it was almost time to go, and I had to hang up. Then I forgot that I hadn't responded. So thanks for the picture! It was sweet.
summoner_lenne9 From: summoner_lenne9 Date: February 26th, 2008 07:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think it's stupid, these are characters whom are very much yours and whom you have loved and written for three years now, and then out of your control they're killed. So not only are you dealing with the depression we all are that two of our favorite characters are dead, on top of it it's as if they're really your children.

Well. That's me guessing anyway :).

That said, it IS bad to... wallow in the despair? I've come to think of it this way- they've been faited to die since HP5 (in JKR's mind anyway, because when she saved Arthur she realized what would come of it) but I'm not sure if they would have gotten together HAD Arthur died. Perhaps the entire reason they got together was simply so they could have a kid then die- which is a depressing thought, but it then means that we have them together because they were going to die...

Which is a terribly depressing way to look at it- and I could be completly wrong on it- but I suppose the point was to look at the bright side and not the bad. Yes the bad is... very big and all consuming and depressing, but the good is two wonderful character's got to have a wonderful year together and they both got to be truly happy. Um. Then die.

I'm preaching to the choir here aren't I though? Heh.

And ya, I saw your response basically right after I wrote this comment :). And no problem, I just wish it was better if that makes any sense, because your writing is that fantastic, but that sounds rather emo-like.

Oh well. Good luck with Safe- really. I know you have a terrible author's block right now, but I hope the challenges helped, and I really DID adore the Marauders piece. I think it would work fantastically as a beginning. But I'm just really, REALLY desperate by now (If I admitted to the amount of times a day I check livejournal to see if you've posted it yet... I'd be locked up or something.)

This got long, sorry.
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