When "Knight Rider" premiered back in 1982, hardly anyone thought it was a particularly great concept for a television show.
Young undercover police officer Michael Young (David Hasselhoff) was rescued by a dying millionaire after being shot in the face. He was fixed up, changed his name to Michael Knight, teamed up with the supercar KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) and set about fighting crime.Dumb idea or not, the show was a hit - especially with the kids. It ran until 1986.
Sunday night (8 p.m., Ch. 2), "Knight Rider 2000" returns as a made-for-TV movie. And its star was never one of the doubters.
"A lot of people looked at this idea and said, `Gimme a break,' " Hasselhoff said in a telephone interview. "My reaction was, `Guys, I'm telling you, this is it. This is the one. This is the vehicle that's going to make me a star.' I believed in it from day one.
"Of course, I never thought that almost 10 years later I'd still be doing the show. I thought I'd be well beyond it."
The show is still popular in reruns and commands a large worldwide audience.
"I have been in a lot of places around the world - like 40 countries," Hasselhoff said. "The most-asked questions are, `How come you're so tall?,' `Where is the car?' and `Why aren't there more episodes of `Knight Rider.' "
Hasselhoff spent three years trying to convince the studio and the network to do some sort of a revival of the show. There will be a few changes on Sunday night, however.
It's set in the year 2000. Michael returns to the foundation and discovers KITT has been dismantled. He places the computer (which still has the voice of William Daniels) in his '57 Chevy, and later it's transferred into a Dodge Stealth prototype.
"There's all kinds of new state-of-the-art mechanical wizardry," Hasselhoff said. "It's the kind of stuff we've been watching on CNN during the past few months."
Edward Mulhare returns as Devon, and Hasselhoff is joined by a new female co-star, Susan Norman.
The popularity of "Knight Rider" has been both a blessing and a curse for Hasselhoff. But he tends to see it more as a blessing.
"I am Michael Knight for the rest of my life," he said. "For getting me into features, it's not so great. But for being able to affect children - terminally ill children - Michael Knight can get a smile out of any child."
Visiting sick children in hospitals has become "a crusade" for Hasselhoff. "I know it sounds sort of sappy, but it's really great to have the chance to bless someone else when you've been so blessed yourself," he said.
The success of "Knight Rider" translated into a an extremely successful singing career for Hasselhoff in Europe. He's sold more than 4 million records on the other side of the Atlantic.
That hasn't translated into recording success in America, however.
"I really haven't ever released a record I was proud of over here," Hasselhoff said. "I released one record and it went lead. We sold seven copies and I bought six of them."
In addition to "Knight Rider" (which Hasselhoff would like to see continue as a series of made-for-TV movies) the actor will be returning to a new, syndicated version of "Baywatch" next season. Never very popular in the United States, "Baywatch" was a big hit in Europe - where much of the funding for 22 more episodes will come from.
He promises a better produced, more realistic show this time around - more along the lines of "Magnum, P.I." And he has more input behind the scenes.
"(The producers) made the mistake of telling me they couldn't get this show made without me," Hasselhoff said. "I said, `You can't get it made without me?' My price went up and so did profit participation."
As for the other original cast members, Parker Stevenson will direct several episodes and appear in a few. Billy Warlock will show up in at least four of 22 scheduled episodes.
"Shawn Weatherly was eaten by a shark (on the series) so she won't be back," Hasselhoff said. "When the ratings are low, a cast member must go."
And Hasselhoff is more excited about the success of his marriage and the birth of his daughter, Taylor Anne, almost a year ago.
"Now I have someone to share my success with," he said. "It used to be that when I was on tour, I got to the hotel room and wondered why I was doing this. Now I share my gold records with my daughter and my wife."
Even when working on "Knight Rider 2000," Hasselhoff was playing with his daughter between takes. And the first-time father is excited about all of Taylor Anne's progress.
"She just stood up yesterday in the tub," he said excitedly. "My daughter stands up now!"