Time folks, please! Murray's Pub Landlord relocates to LA

It could prove the most challenging test yet for United States television audiences' new-found love affair with ironic British comedy.

Al Murray - xenophobe, old-fashioned sexist and purveyor of bigoted bar-room wisdom - is about to open the doors on a US version of his hit show The Pub Landlord, according to Variety magazine.

Following in the trans-atlantic footsteps of other unlikely recent UK hits, most notably the US-version of Ricky Gervais's The Office, Murray - the Oxford-educated great-great-great grandson of William Makepeace Thackeray - has signed a deal for a pilot show with Rupert Murdoch's Fox television.

It is difficult to know what politically correct American television audiences will make of his rants against the French and demands that female drinkers stick to white wine or fruit-based cocktails. Or whether viewers in the American heartland will spot the joke that Murray's real views are in fact the exact opposite of those so enthusiastically espoused by the landlord.

With the working title Union Jackass, set in Los Angeles' Santa Monica seafront district, it could prove a pivotal moment in the career of the Perrier award-winning stand-up. A source close to the show sought to play down suggestions that it was a cultural jump too far. "These are very early days but they came looking for us," he said. The new show is premised on Murray relocating to the Golden State in pursuit of his former wife and son.

Union Jackass is being made by Fox TV and the UK independent producer Avalon, which also made Murray's Sky One show, Time Gentlemen, Please, which ran for two series.

Avalon's Jon Thoday, Richard Allen-Turner and David Martin - who joined the firm from Fox Television Studios to run its US operation last summer - will act as executive producers for the programme.

The Fox pilot is to be written and executive-produced by Dan O'Keefe, whose previous credits include The Drew Carey Show, an American sitcom.

Murray began his career in the Oxford Revue, where he appeared alongside Stewart Lee, Ben Moor and Richard Herring.

After successfully submitting scripts for Radio 4's Week Ending and Spitting Image, he began developing a solo routine and supported Frank Skinner in 1992 with a bizarre sound-effect-based routine that saw him imitate animals, guns and just about anything else.

But his career took on new life after meeting Harry Hill at a Radio 4 commissioning meeting. The two performed onstage together at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in 1994, at the suggestion of Hill, Murray developed The Pub Landlord character.

The comics continued their successful association, Murray playing Hill's brother Alan in The Harry Hill Show from 1997 to 2000.

Murray won the Perrier at the fourth time of trying in 1999. Success led to stage shows including And A Glass Of White Wine For The Lady, My Gaff, My Rules and Who Dares Wins.

He also appeared in Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay He has just completed a sold-out national tour and is expected to announce a new television deal with a UK broadcaster soon.

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