Verne Gay Verne Gay

Gay is the television critic.

THE SHOW "Knight Rider"

WHEN | WHERE Tonight at 8 on NBC / 4

REASON TO WATCH For fans of last winter's two-hour TV movie / backdoor pilot,

still left wondering - "What exactly does happen when this sucker gets a flat?"

Plus, for anyone thinking of buying a new Mustang GT500KR - list price,

$79,995 - for which this show is an elaborate plug.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A really cool car that doesn't just talk (voice of Val Kilmer)

but morphs into other shapes - amazingly, other Ford models! - reads minds,

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reads books, heals thumbs, goes fast, tells jokes and cooks a perfect

five-course meal faster than you can say "James Beard." (Kidding about the

food, but it could happen in a future episode.) It's still driven by Mike

Traceur (Justin Bruening), son of David Hasselhoff's Michael Knight. Tonight,

he must save the beautiful, distressed damsel and fellow agent Sarah Graiman

(Deanna Russo) who's been captured by the dastardly agents from KAOS, or

whatever the dastardly organization is called that's pursuing them. The

set-piece is a keeper: A bomb hits KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand),

engulfing the car in flames so hot that - you're not going to believe this -

Sarah and Mike must shed all of their clothes just to stay cool. There are more

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chases, some comic relief and a story line that yields this priceless line

from KITT: "Mike, you have got to get his thumb back at all cost."

BOTTOM LINE "Knight Rider" is a disaster, a remake so deliriously and

delectably bad that you have to watch just to tell your grandchildren that you

were there. At first, you will think, aha, NBC is playing this for camp, and

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any minute Hasselhoff will stumble through a door with a nod and wink to remind

us that we're in "Airplane!" territory. Then, the thought occurs: No, NBC is

serious. Designed to aid a big client (Ford), NBC will ultimately sell this to

foreign TV buyers who still believe "Baywatch" is the apotheosis of American

culture. But viewers here - even 14-year-old guys - won't be fooled. Back to

the scrap yard for KITT.