For the second time in six months, NBC has sullied the reputation of a guilty-pleasure of the past. Learning absolutely nothing from the mistake of not tying "Bionic Woman" enough to the 70s original, this shoddy retread falls into the same potholes--too 'techy', too dark, no heart, and show essentials nowhere to be seen.
The plot of this potential launching pad for a series update is sadly an all too formulaic "we didn't get the old man, so let's grab the daughter instead" storyline. That's suitable for a regular episode, but a TV movie deserves better. The villains were taken from a Script Writing 101 class, the photogenic stars look better than they emote, and twists in the plot were too easily spotted by anyone who's actually watched television before.
The clear star is meant to be the new Shelby Mustang-based KITT, but sadly the biggest star is Ford, who has managed to take integrating themselves into a show to a new low. Was there ever a car on-screen that wasn't a Ford or a Ford-owned make, like Volvo? It's really just as well to let a corporation be the star since Justin Bruening has very little of the same charm and charisma David Hasselhoff brought to the original.
The real problems come in the details. While the opening scenes paid a few brief homages to the first series, it really serves to make you think of all this movie is missing. KITT is cold, calculating, and has none of the heart that made the original sparkle. They made a big deal about getting Val Kilmer to voice the super-car, and then all he does is speak in a monotone for two hours. KITT feels merely like a tool to be used instead of a bona fide character. This could almost be excused in light of series staples like Turbo Boosts, ski mode, and smoke release--except for none of these are present. The very things that made the original pop with excitement have apparently been chucked out in favor of a car whose only automotive powers seem to be 'going really fast and skidding a lot'. The only real action was fast, taut driving, which wasn't exciting enough and actually felt very slow. KITT does now possess an array of Internet and satellite-based capabilities, but it's nothing we've not seen for years on "24". And all the camouflage-on-the-fly does is seem to serve as a reminder to potential customers that Mustangs come in colors other than black. Even the brief excitement during the opening from hearing a few bars of the original theme was crushed as it morphed into a more "hardcore" cacophony of sounds.
There was at least a glimmer of hope for improvement at the end with acknowledgement that KITT's designer planned to resurrect FLAG, a potential for David Hasselhoff (who only appeared during the coda) to guest again, and a clever twist to the iconic 'backing KITT out of a moving vehicle' shot. Sadly, these last ties to the original were too little, too late. A full series will need to be tied more to the original, and if it's not it's doomed to failure.
In the end we were left with what was a barely passable two hours' worth of entertainment. As a backdoor pilot it's forgivable that it wasn't all that good; it's not forgivable that it also wasn't all that fun.