Paola Bassanese is a freelance author and writer specialising in food, lifestyle and entertainment.
A Task from Taskmaster
What Is Taskmaster?
Taskmaster is one of those hidden gems in TV entertainment that has earned a cult following over the years. IMDb scored this programme nine out of ten, which is high praise indeed.
Taskmaster is a UK TV programme that started on TV channel Dave in 2015 and was then bought by broadcaster Channel 4 in 2019 securing a broader audience. Channel 4 also host The Great British Bake Off or The Great British Baking Show as it’s called in the U.S., and it did not change anything in the original Taskmaster format, to ensure fans wouldn’t be disappointed when the show moved (Digital Spy).
Before becoming a TV programme, Taskmaster was a comedy show at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was a two hour live special in front of an audience where a number of comedians would be awarded points based on tasks allocated to them in the previous few months (Royal Television Society).
The brainchild of comedian and musician Alex Horne, Taskmaster is hosted by actor and comedian Greg Davies, who judges the contestants’ efforts awarding them points, using various degrees of fairness. Even though Alex Horne is the main writer of the programme, the dynamic between Horne and Davies see Horne downplaying his role, acting as the assistant, with Davies taking centre stage.
The Taskmaster and his Assistant
It's all about the Tasks
The tasks allocated to the contestant can be quite complex and some are so absurd that they are totally pointless, like moving a fake boulder the furthest distance or melting a huge block of ice in the shortest time. The most ridiculous the task, the more entertaining it becomes to watch, especially when contestants become frustrated and lose their temper.
Over the years tasks have become more complex but are still as whimsical as ever. In Series 12, for example, contestants had to paint a portrait of the Taskmaster himself, Greg Davies (a painting task is a regular feature), while lying on a car creeper or mechanic's crawler.
The show’s YouTube channel has been a great asset to increase Taskmaster’s viewership outside of the UK. Episodes, which air on TV on a weekly basis, are posted on YouTube immediately after their TV release.
Here are some of the reasons why Taskmaster is one of the most entertaining TV programmes and stands out for originality.
1 It Showcases New and Established Talent
Each series will have at least one established name in the industry to bring in the crowds.
For example, in the first series the main star was comedian Frank Skinner, then later on names such as Bob Mortimer and Lee Mack brought their particular style to the game.
Audiences like to see familiar faces on their screens but they soon warm up to contestants who have had less exposure, often becoming fan favourites.
It would be too reductive to say that Taskmaster is like a variety show, because it’s more of a hybrid between a game show and a panel show. Contestants will shine in different tasks that highlight their natural talent and skills.
2 It Provides Diversity
Even though the first series wasn’t the most diverse, over time Taskmaster managed to find the right blend of talent from different backgrounds. The inclusivity is so seamless that it mostly goes unnoticed, however through the programme viewers get to know actors, broadcasters, entertainers and comedians that they may not normally be exposed to.
Names such as Romesh Ranganathan or Mawaan Rizwan may have not been instantly recognisable at first, but thanks to their antics such as Romesh’s tantrums or Mawaan’s creativity, they stood out from the rest of their team.
3 Tasks Reward Thinking Outside The Box
Alex Horne creates most of the tasks, which include artistic endeavours like painting and crafting as well as mildly physical tasks such as throwing objects using various implements. There are also tasks that require lateral thinking, which sometimes means that the contestant either outsmarts the task by finding loopholes or conjures up new ways of solving a problem.
Comedians tend to think on their feet and their quick wit serves them well. It is fascinating to see cerebral people see alternative solutions to a task.
Taskmaster Contestants in the Studio
4 Cast Members Change but the Chemistry Is Always There
Each series of Taskmaster features a new set of five comedians and entertainers. They compete over the course of about ten weeks (the earlier series were shorter) and having the same people attempt to win tasks creates a rapport with the viewers. The casting over the years has managed to put people from different walks of life in the same room who developed a sense of camaraderie almost instantly. Contestants work mostly on their own but there are a few team tasks where they work together, then they sit in a studio to discuss what they were up to, sometimes regretting their decisions.
5 International Franchises
Taskmaster has a number of international franchises that include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and New Zealand. While the U.S. version did not get high ratings and was not confirmed for a second series, the New Zealand franchise has demonstrated to be one of the most successful after the original UK version.
It is worth noting that Taskmaster New Zealand has managed to recreate the magic of the original version with inventive tasks and by grouping together comedians that already knew one another.
Feel Good Entertainment
Scripted comedy can attract different types of audiences who choose programmes based on their preferences. Taskmaster is mostly unscripted because it relies on the contestants’ reactions to allocated tasks, which can be unpredictable. The problem-solving element of the programme has a universal appeal and seeing the studio interactions of the contestants adds a comedic layer, particularly when Taskmaster Greg Davies disagrees with a panellist.
The humour in Taskmaster is light-hearted and never mean, making the viewing of the programme a positive experience and providing a welcome distraction.
Have You Ever Watched Taskmaster?
© 2021 Paola Bassanese