The Problem With TV Action Shows In a Nutshell

I think this quote from the producer of the new Knight Rider (whose secret alternate title is Our Second Chance to Trash Your Fond ’80s Memories) says something about why there aren’t many decent light action shows on TV today:

Finally, in updating the series, Thompson and his crew will be employing more state-of-the-art special effects. “There’s real driving and then, because the car is transforming we need to do that with CGI. Also, it’s just not cost effective, nor can we close down freeways, to drive 300 miles an hour. Trying to drive fast in the state of California is a little prohibitive. So we have to do green screen for a lot of these shots. But we’re out doing stunts in highways that we can control.”

The over-use of green screen in lieu of real stunts was a major weakness of the two-hour pilot (yes, the script was bad, but so were most of the scripts for the original, so that’s not exactly a “weakness” in this context), and the series doesn’t appear to have learned its lesson: on a light action-adventure, particularly one involving a cool car, the stunts are the show, and faked scenes never work as well as trashing, flipping and racing real cars. Of course a TV show can’t shut down a freeway, but traditionally, that just means not writing chases that take place on freeways. (Why do you think the original KITT always wound up doing chases on abandoned country roads?) They’re writing the action set-pieces and figuring out how to stage them, whereas a show like this works best when the writers know where and how they can stage a great stunt sequence, and write the script around the available locations. There’s not much artistic integrity in that kind of writing, but artistic integrity is not what Knight Rider is about, anyway.

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