God, how I love terrible shortlived cop shows. I especially love the ones that star a young George Clooney with a dangling earring, long curly hair, and porkchop sideburns. And I really really love it when George is playing a rock guitarist who moonlights as an undercover motorcycle cop in L.A. So you can definitely assume that I heart SUNSET BEAT.
Clooney stars in this 1990 TV pilot as Chic Chesbro (!), who rocks out at night on the Sunset Strip in a band called Private Prayer. Chic, Kelly (Michael DeLuise, GILMORE GIRLS), Coolidge (Markus Flanagan, NURSES), J.C. (Marshall Teague, the "I used to fuck guys like you in prison" guy from ROAD HOUSE), and Smith (Erik King, DEXTER) are an experimental unit that works out of an abandoned firehouse under the supervision of Captain Parker (James Tolkan, the bald principal in BACK TO THE FUTURE), who spends most of his time on the phone with his superiors defending his mavericks for bending rules in pursuit of justice. Patrick Hasburgh, who wrote some good scripts for Stephen J. Cannell shows (including 21 JUMP STREET, the obvious inspiration for SUNSET BEAT), penned a real dog here with a plot that never gets moving and dialogue with no logic or sense (after Clooney corrects a co-worker who calls his ex-wife his wife, the guy says, “I don’t care if she’s the mother to be named later”—what the hell does that mean?).
Impressive stunts and an extremely good cast (all of the young stars went on to substantial acting careers) that bounce off each other very well are the pilot’s high points, but it’s all to serve a ludicrous story about the world’s lamest “terrorist organization.” Eccentric German businessman Peter Schmidt (GENERAL HOSPITAL heartthrob Anthony Geary) blackmails the city of Los Angeles into returning confiscated dirty cash by poisoning zoo elephants, tattooing the mayor’s aide’s chest, and threatening a TV weatherman on the air. Yeah, real scary. Meanwhile, Coolidge befriends a teenage runaway and wannabe hooker (SHE'S OUT OF CONTROL's Ami Dolenz), and Smith tries to keep his little brother from running with a drug dealer.
ABC buried SUNSET BEAT on Saturday night and then cancelled it one week later. It was the third series for Clooney, who jumped almost immediately to the terrible ABC sitcom BABY TALK. ER premiered in 1994, and the rest is history.
Surprisingly, MGM HD has aired this lame TV pilot as a very sharp-looking remastered print in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that doesn’t look unnatural. So if you're curious what a shitty 20-year-old George Clooney cop show would be like, MGM HD is giving you your chance to find out.