By Ken Tucker
Updated May 04, 1990 at 04:00 AM EDT

From the creator of 21 Jump Street comes a rip-off of. . .21 Jump Street. More young, hairy, undercover cops, more noisy chase scenes, more tough-guy banter. But in gradations of junk, Sunset Beat is more amusing than Jump Street. For one thing, its premise is agreeably hokey: The show is set on some of Los Angeles’ seediest, gaudiest streets, and the Sunset Beat dudes fight crime on motorcycles — intimidatingly big, ugly hogs (the camera is forever panning over the Harley-Davidson logo on the gas tanks).

Then, too, the cast is more adept than Jump Street‘s hunky lunks. Sunset Beat‘s prime stud is played by George Clooney (yes! nephew of Rosemary ”Come On-A-My House” Clooney!). As (get this) Chic Chesbro, Clooney isn’t sullen; instead, he’s downright hostile, which is refreshing.

Clooney’s Chic plays lead guitar in a rock band called Private Prayer, the best phony-rock-band name on television; too bad the band sounds like Heart. When a crewcut FBI man asks Chic why he has long hair, Clooney shoots back, ”I ! keep my hair long so no one mistakes me for you or Dan Quayle.”

But the best actor on Sunset Beat is James Tolkan, who plays the cops’ captain. It’s a dreadfully cliched role for Tolkan, a skilled stage and film actor who deserves a big TV salary for a while. With his bald head, sallow skin, and sour expression, Tolkan is a walking lemon who gives his lines a puckery snap.

Sunset Beat: Better acting than there was in CHiPS, but essentially the same plots.