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Tuesday, September 7, 1999 Published at 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK


Sky toasts comic Al

"Perrier? Not in my pub!" Al Murray set for champagne lifestyle.

Cult comedian Al Murray has landed a £3m TV deal with Sky One, despite only ever having made short guest appearances on the box before.

The 30-year-old comedian is a favourite on the stand-up circuit. He won the prestigious Perrier Award at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

However, Murray is almost unknown to TV audiences. He featured on Harry Hill's Channel 4 show, playing the surreal comic's dim-witted brother.

The £2.93m contract with Sky for a new 13-part sitcom makes Murray TV's highest paid untried talent.

[ image: Perrier winner Murray laughing all the way to the bank.]
Perrier winner Murray laughing all the way to the bank.
The remarkable deal was cut by Avalon, the same production company which won Fantasy Football star David Baddiel a $5.5m sitcom contract with Sky last week.

Avalon also caught the headlines when the BBC pulled out of negotiations to retain Frank Skinner, when the company set a £20m price tag for his services.

Al Murray will co-write the new Sky series, Time Gentleman Please, based on the pub landlord character which has served him so well on the live circuit.

The bigoted publican's brand of bar-room philosophy has proved immensely popular, seeing Murray play to packed houses around the UK.

"It's great to know that there's a broadcaster out there who's prepared to go the distance with something new," said the comic, who was shortlisted for the Perrier Award three times.

His triumph at this year's awards was nearly scuppered when judges ruled that he was too successful to enter a competition aimed at promoting new talent.

[ image: Richard Herring: Collaborating on a £3m prize deal]
Richard Herring: Collaborating on a £3m prize deal
After a public campaign orchestrated by Avalon, Murray was reinstated and won the prize.

Time Gentleman Please has been in development for several years, with Murray collaborating with This Morning With Richard Not Judy star Richard Herring.

"We have chosen to go with Sky because of their huge enthusiasm for the project and willingness to commit to a long run with its potential for international sales," said Avalon boss Sara Greater.

Murray is expected to pocket at least £1m of the show's £3m budget.

"We are delighted to have secured Al Murray's The Pub Landlord for Sky One. The act is dangerous and brilliant and a perfect match for our plans," gushed James Baker, head of programming at Sky.

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