Network readying two-hour backdoor pilot

NBC is bringing back “Knight Rider,” tapping Doug Liman to produce a “Transformers”-inspired reworking of the 1980s hit action-drama series about a man and his indestructible supercar.

Peacock is readying a two-hour backdoor pilot for the project, with tentative plans to air it as a telepic later this season. Liman is open to the idea of directing, assuming his feature sked allows. If the telepic clicks, a new-model “Knight Rider” could be on the air as early as next fall.

Dave Andron (“Raines”) is writing the pilot script and will serve as supervising producer alongside exec producers Liman and Dave Bartis (“The O.C.,” “Heist”) for Universal Media Studios and Dutch Oven Prods.

Success of “Transformers” had a role in inspiring NBC Entertainment chief Ben Silverman’s decision to revive “Knight.” The thinking is that smallscreen f/x have advanced to the point where it’d be feasible to have a weekly series in which cars shift shapes.

It’s also likely the new show will explore the idea of “evil” cars to offset the heroic talking K.I.T.T. car of the original skein, which starred David Hasselhoff. That said, skein is expected to essentially remain focused on the story of a single man fighting for justice with the help of his superadvanced car.

There’s also huge potential for advertiser integration. General Motors was all over “Transformers,” and it’s easy to see NBC striking a rich deal with a single automaker to serve as the exclusive auto brand for the new “Knight.” It’s understood preliminary talks have already begun.

Peacock is also veering from current conventional wisdom by moving forward with a telepic/backdoor pilot for “Knight.” Nets rarely produce telepics with an eye on turning them into series anymore, in part because the telepic has essentially disappeared from the broadcast network scene.

But NBC execs no doubt feel “Knight Rider” is enough of a pre-sold brand to lure an audience. What’s more, the telepic could serve as a good replacement for repeats come spring, perhaps replacing an encore of “Heroes” or “Bionic Woman.”

“Knight” originally aired on NBC from 1982 until 1986, with Hasselhoff playing smooth crimefighter Michael Knight. A spinoff skein, “Team Knight Rider,” aired in syndication during the 1997-98 season.

Project was put together by CAA and Adam Kolbrenner of Madhouse Entertainment.

Glen Larson created the original “Knight Rider” for Universal Television.

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