Actor and comedian Jason Manford reveals what's in store as he hosts brand new game show First & Last and tells us why he's paying tribute to his comedy heroes....
Actor and comedian Jason Manford is hosting a brand new game show that celebrates being distinctly average!
With 10,000 up for grabs each week, eleven contestants must compete in a range of funny games with one golden rule: they must avoid coming first or last because if they do they will be immediately eliminated.
Here Jason, 38, who starred in comedy drama Scarborough last year alongside ex Corrie actress Catherine Tyldesley and is currently starring in West End musical Curtains, tells What’s On TV what to expect, reveals own first and last experiences and tells us who his all time favourite game show hosts are…
Jason Manford talks to What's On TV
What's On TV: Can you give us the gist of the show? It sounds fun…
Jason Manford: "This is not about winners or losers; it’s about being in the middle, being very average. That’s most us really isn’t it! So this kind of celebrates your Average Joes, your 5 out of 10s. When contestants come on I say, ‘Are you quite competitive?’ They say, ‘Oh yes, really competitive’ and I’m like, ‘Well that’s not going to help you at all here!' This is especially for people who are just kind of alright at things."
Give us an idea of some of the challenges they face
JM: "It’s a mixed bag. For example we might start the show with 11 contestants all inside giant cardboard boxes and they’ve got to jump out but whoever jumps out first and whoever jumps out last is eliminated. There's also a hashtag game where they might pick a person, a song or a film and we see which has got the most and least hashtags online. It’s all very silly but great fun. I take the mickey out of it the whole time because you can’t present a show like this and be deadly serious. I've played it with my kids at home, they loved the hashtag round!"
What are the game shows that you’ve loved watching and who are your all time favourite hosts?
JM: "The Generation Game with Bruce Forsyth is always a classic. I loved Brucie. I grew up watching that as a kid and absolutely loved it. I hope I emulate it in a way, in as much as I love the slight ribbing of contestants and having a bit of fun with them.
"Blankety Blank with Les Dawson is also right up there. Les Dawson is one of my comedy heroes. I loved his dryness and the fact he looked like he didn’t really want to be there in the studio. I’ve actually got a little joke in the middle of each episode of First & Last which is a bit of a homage to Les Dawson so you’ll have to look out for. It’s quite subtle."
What about your own First and Last? What have you come first in and what have you come last in? You’ve won lots of awards over the years…
JM: "Well I've not won any for a while I must say! In 2018 I won one for ‘Hardest Working Comedian’ I did a mammoth tour and I thought, ‘Ah that’s a good award, I’ll show it off to my family’. My brother immediately said, ‘Well it doesn’t say ‘Funniest Comedian’ does it?’ So there you go, immediately put in my place!"
What about last?
JM: "That takes me back to school and getting picked last in games when you’ve got to get into team. Getting picked last at home time, now that was more troubling! The amount of times I’d just be sat there waiting for someone to collect me."
You’re currently starring in Curtains in the West End and then touring with it. How’s that going?
JM: "It’s great, it's such a lovely show, a real Whodunit. I play a detective, a kind of Columbo character and the music’s great. It's written by the same people who did the musicals Chicago and Cabaret and is so much fun to do."
Which musicals have you really loved?
JM: "Well I’ve been lucky enough to be a lot that I’ve loved; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls. They’re some of my favourites to be honest. But it would be lovely to have a crack at a more serious one in the future, maybe Les Mis or something like that, that would be a lovely opportunity but I just see what comes up next. I don’t really make plans any more."
Would you like to do more TV drama in the future?
JM: "Yes I’m writing a couple of things so hopefully I’ll get them off the ground at some point. My wife’s a drama producer, she’s made lots of different telly programmes, Black Mirror for Netflix, The Split for BBC1, so it would be great if we could do something together. I loved doing Scarborough, that was great fun so yes, I definitely want to do more TV drama."
First & Last, presented by Jason Manford, begins on BBC1 on Saturday, 4 Jan, 8.15pm
Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.
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