First & Last



Justin Lee Collins (non-broadcast pilots)

Lee Mack (non-broadcast pilot)

Jason Manford


Zeppotron (part of Endemol Shine Group) for BBC One, 4 January to 8 February 2020 (6 episodes in 1 series)


The show begins with Jason Manford on stage, with eleven large cardboard boxes. Deftly, he explains the premise of the show. You don't want to be first, you don't want to be last. This show is for the middling, the average, the people in the middle.

Jason's script continues by explaining The Leaping Out of a Box Round. All eleven contestants are in these cardboard boxes. They'll decide when to leap out of the box.

Jack's out of a box

The audience cheers when someone rises, but the cheers quickly turn to disappointed "ah"s. First person out of their box is out of the show. Last person out of their box is out of their show.

Next comes the Internet Search Round, where all the contenders write down a search topic (a famous person, a hashtag, something to find on internet sale), and the J-MAC Supercomputer researches how many hits come back. Most and least hits are off the show.

Made from cardboard and flashing lights, it's large enough to hide a researcher inside.

Before the next round, there's a need to establish the order of play. To do this, we have The Weighing A Vegetable You've Brought From Home Interlude. In this interlude, the contestants put a vegetable that they've brought from home on some scales, and weigh it. It's almost entirely irrelevant to proceedings, so it's all done with the maximum of fuss.

Then we're into The Picking An Answer Round, where seven options present themselves. Which of these television shows uses the chosen word most (or least)? Which of these fancy-dress runners completed a marathon fastest (or slowest)? Which word appeared most (or least) in a patter song?

Yeah, they're all made from re-heated cardboard boxes. Thanks for calling Pizza Shack.

Two alternatives for the next round. On some shows, the contestants go into the audience and try to find someone who isn't the oldest or youngest.

On other shows, it's The Round Where Your Friend's On The Phone. Our players call someone, and give them a studio number to ring back within five minutes. First person to call is out; last person to call is out. For our money, this is the far better segment. We're back to the show's first round, waiting for something to happen, but this time we can see the tension and worry on the players' faces. They're no longer anonymous cardboard boxes, they're people we've come to know.

All of this leads to The Round Where They Name Their Own Prize Finale, where the show becomes serious. Each player writes down their preferred prize, "up to £10,000". Whoever writes the largest prize wins nothing; whoever writes the smallest prize wins nothing. The player in the middle wins what they've written down.

You've won a decent sum!

First & Last was in Development Hell for over a decade. Pilots were filmed with Justin Lee Collins and Lee Mack, while they tried to find the right host. And while they found the right mixture of challenges - it turns out that when you ask people to do physical things but not be very good, the results are not very good.

It's a big dumb show, guileless and aware of its weaknesses, and determined to have a good time. Jason gently ramps up the tension throughout, and we're pleasantly surprised to find that we do actually care about the result.

Key moments

The six seconds or so the eleventh contestant to jump out of their box/release their bucket got on screen.

The episode where five out of nine contestants spelled the name of their celebrity incorrectly in Trawl of Fame, spelling their names as Louie Walsh, Holly Wilabey, Jorga Smith, Danial Radcliffe and Robert D'Nero.


First piloted in 2006 with Justin Lee Collins. A further pilot, with Lee Mack, was recorded circa 2018. The format also ran for a short time on Italian and Dutch television.

The series was intended for transmission in a family viewing slot around 6 o'clock on Saturday nights. There was fierce competition between performance shows - BBC1's The Greatest Dancer versus ITV's The Masked Singer and The Voice UK - and viewers could only watch one at a time. First & Last was caught in the scheduling crossfire, and went out around 8.30 in the evening, later than ideal. A contestant call went out in summer 2021, raising hopes of a second series, but 'twas not to be.

One for the They'd Never Get Away With That Nowadays pile: One chap turning up (and winning) an episode with an audible sore throat. Several weeks after the episode was broadcast, the UK suffered a coronavirus pandemic, for which a sore throat was one of the symptoms.

Web links

BBC programme page

See also

Weaver's Week review and the Dutch version


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