Growing up, there were many television shows that I enjoyed watching. But being a guy, there was (and still is!) a genre of shows that had special appeal to me. These were the shows about men and their machines. No not those machines you pervert! I’m talking about the mean vehicles that these heroes used, to chase down the villain and then use the vehicle’s awesome arsenal of weapons to blow the bad-guy to kingdom come. Yeah there were the shows that epitomized raw machismo.
Developed during the decade that truly endorsed the action genre, the 80’s, these shows were dime a dozen. Some lasted for a respectable number of seasons, while others vanished without a trace. But for a true fan (such as myself!) these shows are more than just nostalgia. We grew up on this, so it kinda shaped our own perception of the action genre and was perhaps our first formal introduction to the world of ‘Super’ Automobiles.
Every time I see a new action adventure series, invariably I begin comparing it to these retro shows. My benchmark, out-dated as they may be, are these old action series, where Good was good and Bad was really really bad and you didn’t need an intricate and twisted story to get the TRPs. It was all about the action, plain and simple!
So here are the top three shows of the Automobile Action Adventure Genre (The AAAG!), that I absolutely love! And for extra effect, I’ve even thrown in the Intro sequences of each. Enjoy!
The protagonist is Stringfellow Hawke, a loner who is recruited by a covert government organization called ‘The Firm’ (yea i know sounds kinda cheesy) to recover a stolen supersonic attack helicopter code-named Airwolf.
Well our hero does succeed in bringing the prized chopper back home, but decides against handing it over to the government. Instead Hawke ,with the help of his confidant and buddy Dominic Santini, hides Airwolf in a defunct volcano. Hawke refuses to return Airwolf until the FIRM can recover his brother, St. John, who has been missing in action since Vietnam.
To get access to Airwolf, Archangel, the deputy director of the Firm, offers Hawke protection from other government agencies who will try to recover Airwolf in exchange for flying missions of national importance for the FIRM. What followed were four seasons of chopper-tastic action and loads of dog-fights and mach flights.
The helicopter used in Airwolf was, in one word, awesome. Agreed that today almost every war helicopter has a larger arsenal than the Airwolf chopper, but back then, this baby was gold. I would spend hours just picturing myself at the helm of this beastly beauty! Sigh, too bad no one has thought of reviving this superb show or even considered a feature-film adaptation. Or have they?
Here the protagonist is an ex-motorcycle cop, Jesse Mach, who is recruited by the government to test their top secret project, an all terrain motor-cycle, Street Hawk, designed to battle urban crime. The bike in question, is capable of reaching top speeds of 300 kmph and has an arsenal of weapons comparable to a Sherman Tank!
Obviously Mach’s true identity is a secret, shared only by one other person, federal agent Norman Tuttle, who is also the designer of Street Hawk. With Tuttle as his eyes and ears supplying real-time information from their base, Mach embarks on assignments with his mean machine to stop criminals cold in their feet.
Although short-lived (only 13 episodes!), the series developed a cult following (with me as one of the cult members!) and is often regarded as one of the best TV shows featuring a Motor-Cycle.
But what was most memorable about the show was the theme music. Rendered by the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream, the opening sequence is an adrenaline charged symphony of sounds that will raise you testosterone levels by some several notches! In fact I love the main them so much that I’ve downloaded three other versions of it and just enjoy listening to them on my mp3 player.
Forget Baywatch, Knight Rider is the show that shot David Hasselhoff to fame. By far the most popular of the three, this epic action adventure series chronicled the exploits of one, Michael Knight, who drives a state of the art sentient talking car with artificial intelligence.
Knight is actually police detective Michael Long, who after a near fatal gun shot is rescued by billionaire Wilton Knight who gives Michael a new face (via surgery) and a new identity, Michael Knight. Wilton selects Michael to be the muscle in the pilot program of his Knight Foundation-funded public justice organization, the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG).
The car was the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), a Pontiac Trans Am controlled by a computer with artificial intelligence. Michael and KITT are brought in during situations where “direct action might provide the only feasible solution”.
Knight Rider spawned an entire franchise with toys, games, and tons of other merchandise. However Efforts to revive the famed KITT in different avatars on the small screen have proven somewhat unsuccessful, with even the latest adaptation featuring an upgraded KITT (voiced by Val Kilmer) being taken off the air after one season.
What I enjoyed about the show, apart from the obvious drool worthy modified Trans Am Pontiac, was the chemistry between KITT (well the AI of KITT) and Michael. Their conversations were packed with humor and dry sarcasm, which made the show a treat for everyone. But yes, the car itself was oh-so desirable. Even today, I doubt anyone would refuse the opportunity to get behind the wheel of KITT (or KARR for that matter).
This post is part of my Retro Series, in which I talk about all things from my childhood which are now considered as retro. Check out the other posts in this series by clicking here – Retro Series