Though NBC kept touting that the revival of Knight Rider was a success, the ratings have told a different story. Just about everyone in the industry was shocked when the network gave the Justin Bruening series an order for the back nine episodes. Now, to little surprise, NBC is pulling the plug.
Knight Rider debuted on September 24th, as a follow-up to the TV movie that aired last February. The new TV show takes place 25 years after the original exploits of Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) and his high-tech, four-wheeled partner KITT (voiced by William Daniels). Mike Traceur (Bruening) is the son of Knight and the driver of the newest KITT (voiced by Val Kilmer). The car was built by Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison), the father of Mike’s former girlfriend, Sarah (Deanna Russo). As in the original series, Mike and KITT work together to thwart evil and save the innocent. The rest of the cast includes Paul Campbell, Yancey Arias, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, and Smith Cho.
A few revivals of Rider have been attempted over the years but none have been a success. The newest version is, unfortunately, no exception. The premiere episode debuted to just 7.35 million viewers and a 2.5/7 rating/share in the 18-49 demographic. The audience for Rider’s second episode grew to 7.77 million while the demo remained essentially flat at 2.4/7. The following three episodes averaged about 7.2 million but the demo began slowly dropping with each new installment.
Likely due to the state of the rest of NBC’s sagging schedule, the network decided to stick with Rider and gave the series a greenlight for nine more episodes. This would bring the order to a full 22 installments for the season. Soonafter, the ratings took a serious hit in the November sweeps period.
After a week off, Rider’s audience sank to just 5.12 million and a terrible 1.6/4 in the demographic. The ratings weren’t much better for the rest of the month.
A few days after the first November ratings dip, showrunner Gary Scott Thompson announced that the show was going through a retooling. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “We’re moving away from the terrorist-of-the-week formula and closer to the original, making it a show about a man and his car going out and helping more regular people, everymen.”
As a part of this effort, three castmembers were let go — Poitier, Arias and Davison. Thompson maintained that this move had nothing to do with their performances. The decision likely had more to do with an effort to cut costs and make the bottom line more attractive to the network.
It seems the network hasn’t been sufficiently impressed by what they’ve seen and execs have cut the episode order back to 17 installments. The cast and crew are currently working on their 17th episode, written and directed by Thompson. They’re expected to wrap some time next week.
That episode, now the Rider season finale, is scheduled to air on February 25, 2009. The five remaining scripts will be utilized on the off chance that the series is renewed for a second season. Unless the ratings seriously improve, there’s no way that that will happen. Not even Mike and KITT will be able to save the day. Stay tuned!
Image courtesy NBC.