1980’s world was normal life punctuated by big hits of excitement. Concerts began to sell out stadiums! Normal concert halls or bars were not enough. Pot turned to Coccaine! Normal highs were nott good enough. Cars widely became turbocharged! N/A was not enough.Yep everything we knew was boosted instantly when we were dissatisfied so why not boost our TV shows!! Television and life took a big jump embracing all things turbo charged. TV or drugs, a boost had to be there or we didn’t care.
Most race cars (sans NASCAR) were turbocharged by then, F1, indy, group-c/imsa-GTP and GTO classes, group-B rally, etc. The Dodge 4 cylinder family cars were wearing a turbo. Even the early caravan mini-van had a boosted Mitsubishi and a 4-speed manual available. There were various turbocharged cars in TV use of some kind or another, or at least they said they were, but nothing pumped up our hopes of TV action like the Boost Button. Yesss that button that exaggerated every ability of the TV cars. Pressed and the protagonist vehicle was suddenly capable of huge leaps of speed or jumps or otherworldly performance. A bit like shoving loads of cocaine into our sinuses and then trying to jump as fast as we can or run as high as we can. Yes in that order. Lunatic speed. So, here is the best list of TV history of this masterful piece of hardware that I could dig up. The eponymous ‘Boost Button’.
1966:Batman and his OG Batmobile (Honorable mention)
Now, the Batmobile did NOT have a Turbo Boost button. (later on in movie life it did have a boost sort of function but this is a TV post) However, it was driven by a big turbine engine connected to electric generators, in essence, a turbine-electric hybrid Prius that’s black and fights crime at nearly 5,000 lbs. It does have rocket boost!! It is aimed forward for sudden stopping power. So, it is only in this list because it is driven by a turbine engine and assumedly can go as fast as they could ever want to go as it is. A long time passed before we saw a real boost function installed.
1982: Knight Rider and the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT)
A single press of the Boost button enabled KITT to use rocket boosters to, most of the time jump over things, road blocks, bad guys with poorly held and aimed machine guns, buildings, but occasionally he would reach speeds of 200mph on apparently two lane country roads. On TV it looked quite bouncy. I’m sure the camera was recording the show at normal speeds. The thrusters it activated could fire downward rearward or backward. After all, “KITT is powered by the Knight Industries turbojet with modified afterburners and a computer controlled 8-speed turbodrive transmission.” Mr. Knight never showed us the controls for the direction of thrust. He must have just thought to himself and KITT read his mind. KITT can do oh so many things. KITT can apparently smell air as well. KITT was amazing. Later on they improved him with the “Super Pursuit Mode” which was of course so much more boss!
1984 (spring): Blue thunder and the…..Blue thunder helicopter
This TV show was patterned after the movie. The movie was fantastic. It was a straight up, “Damn this helicopter is possible” realization. I didn’t see the movie until it was on HBO a few years after it was released but it was great. Then….the TV show with such great talent as Dick Butkis, Bubba Smith, Dana Carvey and James Farentino(?) Great things in our faces such as that great Gatling gun, whisper mode, super audio recording ability, and ‘Turbine Boost’! It just made them catch up to people when being a helicopter became too slow to get anywhere. After 11 episodes It was cancelled because not only was it showing at the same time as Dallas, but Airwolf showed up and producers felt they were gonna loose that one. Good choice. Airwolf was cooler with better moodier acting.
1984 (fall): Airwolf and the……Airwolf helicopter (can’t be different I guess)
Such a BADASS this vehicle was. A helicopter! With Cool animal-sounding BIG Boost! Supersonic! Oh Christ my 11 year old mind exploded! The entire show was just a build up to the last scenes where he pressed that little red button on the stick and not only did it go crazy fast, it started blowing up everything with machine guns and cannons! It couldn’t just go fast it had to blow everything up while doing so! It wasn’t just a boost button it was an insanity button. Press…insanity! Three seasons.
1985: Street Hawk (music composed by Tangerine Dream…cool!)
“This is Jesse Mach, an ex-motorcycle cop, injured in the line of duty. Now a police troubleshooter, he's been recruited for a top secret government mission to ride Street Hawk — an all-terrain attack motorcycle designed to fight urban crime, capable of incredible speeds up to three hundred miles an hour, and immense firepower…” …yeah, uh, anyway it had a rocket booster but they called it something way better. The “Hyper Thrust” mauver! Now were getting somewhere. Basically Chuck Norris’s Megaforce Motorcycle in black + Rocket boosting = The greatest idea for a TV show ever! That’s sort of like some kind of bigger line of coke than what we were used to at the time I guess. More boost than those normal every day boosted cars and helicopters. They were obliged to use it once per episode or else ratings would drop among the 12 year old demographic (me). Tangerine Dream really showed what could be done with music at the time as well. Full synth pieces with a great beat. Here is the Theme song.
1996: Viper (turbine boost added in season-2)
Yep. A Chrysler products only TV show about a Government funded team protecting “Metro City California” from an unending stream of crime waves, constantly attacking the city. What better way to defend the place than with a Dodge Viper that also happens to have deployable weapon pods and armor and multitudes of James Bond stuff + machine guns. This was now the 90’s. Big satisfaction of instant boost to the party was not the main piece of the pie anymore. Big guns, lots of guns, improbable guns and equipment was the new style. So in season 2 when they introduced Turbine Boost, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. It was such a non-deal that I couldn't find any videos of it being used in the show. Writing and dialogue was getting much better in general TV. That’s why ‘Viper’ lasted 4 seasons. Same length as Knight Rider. It wasn't about the cars by then it was about the story and the characters.
It would seem that the golden era for vehicle based TV as well as vehicles with boost buttons was all in the early to mid 1980’s. Several show,s nearly all at the same time, encompassed a vehicle as a central focus. From the A-team’s van to Magnum P.I.’s Ferrari to Knight rider to Viper in the 90’s the appearance of a car as a central TV figure, where strong before, has been very weak as of late. We now have the Top Gear franchise and the occasional program on Velocity TV, but science fiction, fantasy fiction, general fiction, or even realistically portrayed vehicular roles are virtually gone. I hope you enjoyed this look at one of the bit themes to 80’s TV that shaped quite a bit of our enthusiasm for vehicles that drive, fly, and well..do something else quickly. Boost Button! That was easy!
(If I missed any other TV show that used the boost button please let me know and I'll add it in. I tried to think of any other shows that happened before or after my 80's childhood.)