Preview: Union Jackass

Union Jackass

In the US: January on Fox, maybe. See later though.

In the UK: Depends on when/if they show it in the US

So here’s novelty. Al Murray, top UK comic, gets to make his own sitcom pilot in the US. But get this: he’s allowed to do the same character – a racist, sexist, homophobic, jingoistic pub landlord who hates Americans – that he’s done in the UK.

What do you think the chances of that working are?

The plot

Murray’s Canadian wife is getting re-married. Trouble is, the fiancé’s American and they’ve decided to settle down with Murray’s young son in the US. So Murray flies over to the US to try to rescue his son from enforced Americanhood. Unfortunately for him, it’s not as easy as he hopes, so he has to settle down in Santa Monica. He gets a job running what could only be charitably described as a “pub”: the owner has never been to England in her life and needs a few hints on authenticity…

Is it any good?

For a character that’s so un-PC, it’s amazing that the pub landlord even got a chance at a US sitcom, let alone one where he’s not watered down. Sure Archie Bunker had a go at in the 70s, but at least he was American.

Cleverly, Murray has found some targets for his character’s vitriol that might well endear him to the US audience he’s simultaneously insulting: Canadians and Californians. If there’s one thing most Americans agree on, it’s the weirdness of both Canadians and Californians.

The pilot is relatively funny and feels at times like a continuation of Murray’s UK series Time Gentlemen Please. Maybe that’s not too surprising since the show’s UK production company Avalon made Union Jackass in association with 20th Century Fox.

Pleasingly, the UK side of things isn’t distorted by American perceptions and neither are the American characters mere pastiches: they’re reasonably capable of holding their own, without either side getting an upper hand in the gags stakes.

It’s not the funniest half hour I’ve ever sat through, and there’s very little character put in place for anyone except Murray. But it’s not bad, particularly for something that had all the signs of being an abomination written over it from day one.

When’s it airing?

Good question. It hasn’t been picked up by Fox, although the always reliable IMDB does list it as airing in 2007. With Happy Hour likely to bite the dust soon, it might get picked up as a mid-season replacement or a January show. However, there’s that little matter of Al Murray’s forthcoming chat show on ITV1: he can’t be on two continents at the same time.

My guess? It’s dead and buried. But just in case it isn’t, I thought you’d like to know what could be coming your way.


Al Murray (Al, the pub landlord)

Jenica Bergere (Elizabeth)

John Ducey (Jack)

Colby Paul (David Ritchie)

Christina Chang (Sonya Wang)

Joshua Gomez (Julio)

John C. McDonnell (Rory)

Enn Reitel (George)