Why you should be watching Taskmaster
Ivan Radford | On 05, Sep 2018Reading time: 5 mins
Taskmaster returns to Dave from 4th September for another run of silly challenges given to a bunch of comedians. Now in its ninth season, the frankly ridiculous programme remains nominated and downright unique – one of Dave’s flagship originals, and with good reason.
Never seen the show? Here’s why you should be tuning in or catching up:
1. It’s pointless
Taskmaster is based around one simple premise: force people to carry out the most random, inconsequential, arbitrary tasks imaginable. These aren’t epic feats of survival, challenging tests of endurance, or even remotely impressive displays of talent. Rather, these are tasks such as herding dogs, knocking over rubber ducks on walls, blowing something off a table, or camouflaging yourself in a room. Over the years, it’s evolved from something amusingly trivial to the Shooting Stars of reality telly, The I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue of TV contests. It’s the most pointless thing you’ll see on telly this year. And it’s all the better for it.
2. But there are points
What makes the daft challenges so entertaining, though, is that every contestant takes them so seriously, finding increasingly inventive ways to achieve the end goal as quickly, efficiently or flamboyantly as possible – or, even better, to cheat the whole thing entirely and find a lazy workaround.
Why do they take it seriously? Because there are actually points awarded for each round, and every episode sees one person crowned the winner. They get to take home not just the title of champion, but also some highly valued prizes: every contender has to bring in an object they’re willing to forfeit to the winner, ranging from their favourite subscription (a standout is an annual subscription to daily emails containing photos of clouds) to an “object that makes an interesting noise”. So the stakes aren’t just high: they’re personal.
Just to prove it, the show even had a Christmas “Champions of Champions” special last year – that a TV show based around meaningless tasks with no purpose whatsoever can even claim to have a “Champion of Champions” is testament to just how absurdly confident Taskmaster is in its own brand of nonsense.
3. The tasks
It’s hard to overstate just how brilliant the tasks are, and with every season, the show’s producers have to find new ways to top previous challenges. What began with emptying a bath tub without taking out the plug has grown to making stop-motion films of potatoes, perform the most impressive stunt possible with a wheelbarrow, or just conducting a genuine miracle on camera. Season 7 includes such challenges as cheering up traffic wardens and poking unexpected things through the roof of a woodland grotto. As you do.
4. The contestants
As you’d hope, the contestants who sign up for this tomfoolery are fully prepared to go the extra mile to emerge victorious – Bob Mortimer’s attempt at a miracle is only topped by Aisling Bea’s attempt to give someone “a special hug”, which is one of the most surprising, and disturbing, things your brain will ever have to try and repress. Nish Kumar and Mark Watson even manage to write a song about a stranger in 30 minutes that you would genuinely buy as a single on iTunes.
What’s also impressive, though, is that the show continually makes an effort to have a diverse group of people on its show, with two of each season’s five contenders women and participants ranging from Sally Phillips and Katherine Ryan to Lolly Adefope and Mel Giedroyc, as well as more obvious choices such as Noel Fielding, Hugh Dennis and Frank Skinner. It’s not 50/50, but it’s better than most TV panel shows.
For Season 7, Rhod Gilbert is joined by James Acaster, Jessica Knappett, Kerry Godliman and Phil Wang.
5. The hosts
While you’re watching Doc Brown and Josh Widdicombe embarrassing themselves on screen is entertaining, what makes Taskmaster really step up the laughter is its choice of hosts: Greg Davies and Little Alex Horne. Horne created the series, starting at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010 before bringing it Dave in 2015, and has a deadpan that’s lethal, overseeing each task as the officially adjudicator, and almost never breaking his straight face. In the studio, meanwhile, he’s joined by Davies to watch back the footage, with the Welsh former teacher overseeing the whole thing like a drunken headmaster with discipline issues. Watching him berate everyone at every opportunity – not to mention barking orders at Little Alex Horne – is priceless.
6. It’s only 30 minutes
In an age of binge-watching, box sets and cliffhanger plot twists, sometimes, you just want to sit down and watch someone trying to play basketball without their hands, or invent their own water-based form of transport. This is the show for people with zero commitment – and, best of all, Taskmaster knows it, cramming each instalment into just 30 minutes, even squeezing in time for an on-stage finale. Less time thinking, more time giggling.
7. It’s all on UKTV Play
All six previous seasons and the Champion of Champions special are available to stream – ideal for watching and re-watching in between each new episode of Season 9, available weekly after broadcast (at 9pm on Dave).