Jason Manford


Possessed, 12 Yard (both ITV Studios companies) and BBC Scotland for BBC One, 10 May 2021 to 12 May 2023 (95 episodes in 2 series)


Top comic Jason Manford hosts the show. He briskly explains the general idea: we don't just need the right answer, we need the best answer. Four contestants play the game, and we start the show by meeting each in a solo round. Jason has a quick chat with the contender, but soon we're into the quiz proper.

Let's take a sample question. "Which of these tv shows was aired first?". Six answers appear, and - in their head - the contestant needs to rank them in order. The contestant picks one of the answers, and it comes down to the massive video floor in the middle of the studio.

So which was the earliest to air? Which is the Unbeatable answer?

Our contestant has a decision to make. If they think they've picked the Unbeatable answer, the show we saw first, they can push their button. £1000 if they're right, £0 if they're wrong.

Otherwise, our player can pick off single answers for £100 each – but if they pick off an answer that beats theirs, they'll again score nothing for the round. A player can bank the money they've won rather than select another answer.

In our example, the player has chosen The Thick of It as the earliest show. And they've chosen not to call it "Unbeatable", so will be playing for £100 per correct answer. The Inbetweeners might be later, so that comes down to the floor. A graphic appears, lines rush towards each other, and the losing show is pulverised into a squillion tiny brickettes. Our contender plays on, with Gavin and Stacey and Not Going Out, and eventually stick on £300.

These moving lines get more airtime than Jason.

After all of the players have had their individual moment in the spotlight, whoever's got the most money picks their opponent for the next round.


On each question board, the players choose an option they feel best answers the question. The player with more money starts the first board, their opponent starts the second. If either player believes they've picked the Unbeatable answer, they can buzz in and claim £1000 if they're right – get it wrong and they hand £100 to the opponent.

Should neither player believe they're Unbeatable, the round plays out like the first – three head-to-head battles for £100, with first picks alternating. Whoever wins two battles (or gets the Unbeatable answer) wins the board, and whoever wins two boards wins the round.

The two winners then take their places in the final eliminator.

The set is round and friendly.

In this final eliminator, both players are trying to find the single Unbeatable answer to the question on the board. Whoever has the most money picks first, and there's £1000 if they can find it first time out. Fail, and the opponent can have a go for £800 from the remaining answers. If necessary, the leader will return for £600, the opponent for £400, and the leader gets final crack for £200. In the rare instance that a player is left with the last answer then they win the board by default, but add nothing to their prize pot.

Whoever wins two boards goes through to the cash round. This player might occasionally not have the most money, but it's clear they've earned their place on the show.

Win your cash

The cash round is one final Unbeatable grid, albeit with two possible questions – and the contestant picks the question they'd rather play. This round plays like the first. The player selects their Unbeatable answer, and then chooses alternatives to go up against it. Win two of these little battles, and the contestant can retire with half their banked money – £1000 or so.

Pick a question, any question.

Or the player can press on and take four battles for the entire amount they won in the main game. And if the player has the unbeatable answer, and the confidence to play all five other possibilities, they'll double their money. But if any of the selected answers beat the "unbeatable" answer, our finalist loses and leaves with nothing. The potential top prize is £10,200, but it's rare for more than £5000 to be on offer. In most shows we've seen, the winner takes some money home.

Unbeatable is watchable, but it's never fascinating. It's very repetitive, the questions are adequate but not as fun as The Answer Trap, music's OK, Jason Manford doesn't really have a chance to show his comedy skills or warm the programme up. There's an interesting idea in there, but we're not sure the first series quite brought it home. We would also observe that while the wall of answers is obviously big and bold in the studio, it can be hard to read on-screen. A graphic overlay of the available answers would really help the playalong factor.

The show was recommissioned for a second series with 30 x 45 minute episodes on BBC1 and - to our surprise - 15 x 30 minute episodes on BBC2. Episodes lost their solo rounds, their The Deciders were worth more (£1,500-£250x, where x is a wrong answer), and their final categories became a choice of three, one a 'neither', and they didn't share answers. Episodes 16 to 45 (i.e. the BBC One episodes) featured an extended solo round, with three questions worth £100 each, with answers appearing in their grids, with the top prize now an even weirder £10,800.

Theme music

Music by Possessed Music Box.


Development team: Nick Mather, Matt Floyd, Jack Borgeat, Adam MacDonald, Simon Crossley.


Series one took a one-week break after episode 25 to accommodate Euro 2020 and broke off after episode 30 to accommodate Wimbledon. Some think this an acknowledgement that they bit off more than they could chew when ordering fifty episodes, others reckon that the plan was always to break for the football and other sport. Filming for the first series, incidentally, broke off midway through the series after Jason came into contact with a COVID-19 case and he and his cohort were legally obliged to isolate. These first episodes aired at 2:15; the half-hour series aired mostly at 6.30, with one episode scheduled for 5.40pm on Saturday due to planned athletics (though scrambled schedules as a result of the death of Queen Elizabeth II meant it actually aired five minutes earlier, by far the game show least affected by that). The success of Bridge of Lies in the 4.30pm slot meant that Unbeatable's second series went out then too.

Earliest of these shows to air? The Thick of It was the Unbeatable answer.

Graphics were designed by Component Graphics, displayed by Possessed Machines. We assume that's the mechanical division of co-producers Possessed, and not a ghost in a box.

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry

See also

Weaver's Week review


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