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Masters of SciFi – Executive Producer Gary Scott Thompson Promises a Newer, Sleeker Knight Rider

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As the writer of The Fast and the Furious , Gary Scott Thompson knows what motorheads like to watch. Now he’s been charged with revitalizing NBC’s Knight Rider remake. He talks to about where the first attempt went wrong and his new vision for the series.

Q: How did you get involved with the Knight Rider remake?

A: How did I get roped into it? When the strike happened and Las Vegas went down, I was still under contract at NBC and they asked me to take a look at Knight Rider. The two-hour pilot had just come out so I looked at it and said, “If you plan on doing that, I’m not your guy. I don’t even know how to do that.” So I pitched them a show where the car transformed, there was a mission of the week and there was this whole team that worked out of a “KITT Cave.” Basically I pitched what you’ll see in the new pilot.

Q: Where do you feel NBC’s first remake attempt missed?

A: I thought it had missed on a lot of things. The first thing I said was, “Where the hell is the turbo boost?” It also didn’t have the fun or ingenuity that the original series did. There’s a 25-year difference between the two — a talking car then was a big deal, a talking car now is nothing because everyone has GPS. I just felt with the advance in technology you have to take a huge leap, and with sophisticated audiences that see Iron Man and Transformers every summer, if you’re not at least on par, you’re behind.

Q: The movie also seemed to have an element of nostalgia that other, more successful remakes have done away with.

A: When I saw it, I thought it looked like an episode from Season 4 of the original, when the story lines had begun to run out. And you can’t attract a new audience doing that. But to try and bring in the old fans, new fans and younger fans you’re walking a thin line because you don’t want to alienate any segment of that population. You need to give everybody something that they want. In the case of something like Battlestar Galactica, it’s easier to eschew the original series because the SciFi Network is a specific niche network. I think the last numbers on Galactica were 800,000 people watching. We’re dealing with tens of millions, so there’s a lot more people to piss off if you’re doing it wrong.

Q: The original series had a Lone Ranger vibe to it. How can you maintain that spirit with a whole team?

A: The original series was basically the Lone Ranger and his horse Tonto. But in some ways there are no more Lone Rangers in the world because of the technological advances and what the world is. You can’t go it alone any more. I think the last Lone Ranger was Rambo, and look what happened to him! But our guy is still out there with the car — he just has a great team behind him.

Q: Will David Hasselhoff have a role in your series?

A: We’ve been talking, and he’s been talking with NBC. It’s hard with his schedule and where we are shooting-wise. By the time I met him, we’d already had scripts written for eight episodes, and if he was going to be used, I felt he should be used for a meaningful purpose to get a bridge between the two series. The network wants us see what happens before we go down any path. But to me, those two cars side-by-side would be awesome, sort of in the way Battlestar Galactica dusted off the old Cylons from the original series and had them show up — that was a hoot.

Q: What tone are you aiming for with the show?

A: Ultimately, the show should be fun. I think we had always intended to create something where you could kick your shoes off, sit back and have a good time. Someone described it saying, “It’s never going to be a filet mignon. But you know what, on a hot summer day, a double cheeseburger and a cold beer is awesome.” I know nobody liked the two-hour movie and everybody thought the original series was cheesy, but give us a chance to prove you wrong.

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