When someone asks me what my favorite television show growing up was, I have to think about that. Hands down, I could say MacGyver because I still think it's better than leftover cornbread with onions. But then I think on all the sitcoms and action shows of the 1980s and have to give it up to a genre: weaponized and sentient vehicles.
The big example of this is Knight Rider. A cop, played by David Hasselhoff, was shot in the face and so is given by a private company an invincible talking car to go forth and fight crime. That is a crazy premise, even before you get to the talking car. Imagine what the internal memos of the Knight Foundation looked like:
"Overviewing candidates for top secret project KITT. One looks promising, a police officer shot in the face. Great track record of incorruptibility and expert driving skills. Should be receptive to whatever nonsense we tell him after we pay his medical costs from being shot in the face. Can we get a report on behavior of individuals who are gravely wounded in the line of duty and then given the equivalent of a tank that can drive two hundred miles per hour? Also, how are we doing with developing the sarcasm in the super death machine no one else can drive?"
No way you could work in that organization and not on a daily basis say to a coworker, "this is super crazy what we do, right?" Just the monthly reports alone have to be nuts to get through. "Sentient car requires oil change and the complete works of Chaucer and Danielle Steele. May look into higher performance oil and possibly tutor who does not mind talking literature to a car like a crazy person."
From Knight Rider you can then go two ways. There are the sentient vehicles in movies like the Herbie the Lovebug series or The Dirt Bike Kid, and there are Batman types who just have a cool car or motorcycle or helicopter to pad out the runtime with the same stock footage over and over. While the idea of a sentient vehicle is cool, those did not get any really awesome stories behind them. Let us delve.
I present you first with Street Hawk. Yeah, that's really the name. The show follows former motorcycle Officer Jessie Mach (because calling him Speed would be a Flash spoiler). Mach has an accident and his legs are crippled, sending him to desk duty where he feels super bad. Along comes Tuttle, a genius inventor, who gives Mach a leg surgery and a super motorcycle that can drive over three hundred miles-per-hour without killing hobos, under the condition that Mach keep sitting down like a cripple and test the bike. Crime solving at high speeds happens.
This is a more traditional story to be sure. An accident, a genius inventor, a hero with a drive to do right. What's fun is who could have been under the helmet as the camera was sped up to give the appearance that a motorcycle with active guns fighting crime was a good idea. Two people were almost given the part that went to stuntman Rex Smith. One was some loser named George Clooney, who was in the second episode after he was passed over, and the other was Don Johnson who turned down the role after some Miami police show was picked up and I guess he wanted to hang out with an alligator. After the cancellation of the series, Smith went on to do a lot of guest spots, and I can only assume appear each year at the Street Hawk convention.
Another story of justice by super vehicle is Airwolf. A lot has been written about this Ernest Borgnine and Jan-Michael Vincent classic, but I have to talk about it a little. I mean, it's about a guy looking for his brother so he takes a contract to go on missions for "intelligence agency" using a super helicopter. They strung this along for four seasons, a movie, and some other garbage, all the time using the same footage of the helicopter doing the same fly by the camera. It's a fascinating watch of eighties production.
To round out this discussion, Thunder in Paradise. Hulk Hogan and another guy play two ex-Navy Seals with a super speed boat out on the high seas solving crimes. I shall not spoil anything else out this clear masterpiece.
Now if you excuse me, I am going to watch MacGyver because he just needed his pocket knife and some duct tape to get shit done. A true hero.