I was watching a video on the history of the Viper and it mentioned that the Viper was the star of its own tv series that ran for four years. Hmmm. I had a vague recollection of a Knight Rider knockoff product placement vehicle for the Viper (see what I did there?), but four years? I remember watching the first episode, thought it was lame, and never watched it again. I thought it had crashed and burned, just as the Knight Rider sequel more recently did. If this was a serious topic, I’d do some real research but for a lighthearted weekend piece, Wikipedia will suffice. Yes, there was a Viper television series that ran on NBC in 1993-94, it was canceled due to poor ratings, but revived for three years on the Paramount network. The wonders of product placement!
It starred a Dodge Viper with a high tech shape shifting skin that changed from a roadster to the Viper Defender coupe, designed by Chrysler’s design team. The product placement deal resulted in not just Chrysler production vehicles being on the show but principal characters also drove Chrysler concept cars in the series, set a few years into the future.
There were also a number of marketing deals involving R/C and slot cars and other promotional items. Perhaps there was a commitment from Chrysler to buy more ads, and perhaps it was a time when a number of startup television networks, broadcast and cable, were clamoring for content, but somehow a retooled Viper got picked up by the Paramount network in 1996, where it ran for another three years.
The human star of the series was Joe Nipote, playing supercop/government agent Frankie X. Waters. Do you remember this show? Was there a more forgettable tv show based around a car? Do more people remember My Mother The Car? At the least you can enjoy some pretty cool looking mid to late 1990s Chrysler concepts like the Atlantic and Chronos as well as the Viper and Viper GTS. A Viper Defender used in the tv show, said to be the only surviving car of 14 used for filming, went on the block in 2010 at Mecum, where $270,000 failed to meet the reserve price.
Here are some videos from the pilot of the original NBC series and the first episode of the Paramount version. Perhaps when you were growing up, this was your KITT or Batmobile, but people got paid real money to make this dreck?