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15th April 2024

Taskmaster: Why it’s so good and where to begin

As a new series of Taskmaster begins, these are the best casts to watch if you’re looking for some dissertation distraction
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Taskmaster: Why it’s so good and where to begin
CREDIT: Taskmaster @ Avalon

Forget award season, it’s Taskmaster time. The 17th season has just hit the big screen (Thursdays on Channel 4 at 9pm), with a star-studded cast featuring Nick Mohammed (Ted Lasso), Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen ), Joanne McNally (My Therapist Ghosted Me), John Robins (Elis James and John Robins Show), and Sophie Willan (Alma’s Not Normal)

Look, I’ll admit, Taskmaster gets a bit of a bad rep sometimes. Some people think it’s boring (wrong) and some people think they’re too good for it (literally impossible). I’m here to prove you wrong and show you that my opinion is correct.

For those who don’t know how the show works (where have you been, no offence), Greg Davies (The Inbetweeners) is the Taskmaster, judging five contestants on their performances in a range of tasks created by Little Alex Horne. The tasks vary from the weekly prize task where contestants must bring in something from a specified category (e.g. the most awkward item to take home), to team tasks (e.g. make this bed to ‘hotel standard’ whilst your hands are tied together).

With the new season just beginning, it’s the perfect time to indulge myself and avoid uni work by looking back on the past series and their standout contestants. Here are the best seasons of Taskmaster if you’re looking for something easy and hilarious to put on while you also avoid your essays.

Series 5 (Netflix)

Featured: Bob Mortimer, Nish Kumar, Aisling Bea, Mark Watson, and Sally Phillips.

If Taskmaster is an addiction, then Series 5 is the gateway drug.

No one is too good to watch Bob Mortimer cuddle Alex Horne in the boot of a car, or to watch Sally Phillips pretend to have a love affair with a watercooler. Watson’s awkwardness, Mortimer’s borderline bizarreness, Bea and Phillips’ flirting, and Kumar’s frankly abysmal attempts at the hilarious tasks make this series the perfect place to start. My favourite ever task is also in Episode 8 of this series, in which the songs “Rosalind’s a f*cking nightmare” and “I’m always seeing you (do cool stuff)” are born. Iconic.

Series 4 (Netflix)

Featured: Joe Lycett, Noel Fielding, Hugh Dennis, Mel Giedroyc, and Lolly Adefope.

2017 was quite possibly the best year for British comedy, because this series of Taskmaster was also born. Not one, but TWO hosts of the Great British Bake Off in one series? Say less.

They dance to iPhone ringtones and they make movie trailers – this series really is a thing of beauty. Giedroyc and Dennis make for some of the most entertaining team tasks, with the revelation of Dennis’ Cambridge nickname, Desky, coming to light. The chemistry between the cast definitely takes this series to another level, with the Outnumbered-esque ‘Mum, Dad, and 3 kid’ dynamic becoming abundantly clear as the series progresses.

Series 1 (Netflix)

Featured: Frank Skinner, Roisin Conaty, Romesh Ranganathan, Tim Key, and Josh Widdicombe.

Look, the first season is a classic for a reason. The contestants have no idea what they’re in for, so there is no attempt to ‘beat’ the Taskmaster; they are all just trying their best, and they are all (mostly) terrible. I mean, Josh Widdicombe gets a tattoo. That’s the level of commitment we’re dealing with.

What’s more, the cast is absolutely stacked with comedy legends, from Skinner, who wrote the World Cup anthem that is ‘Three Lions (It’s Coming Home)’, to Ranganathan, who now hosts almost every TV show ever.

Series 14 (All4)

Featured: Dara O’Briain, John Kearns, Munya Chawawa, Fern Brady, and Sarah Millican.

One of the things that makes Taskmaster so special, is its ability to bring talented, but not necessarily wide-known comedians into the limelight. Long-standing British comedy fans might be well aware of Kearns’ impressive back-to-back Edinburgh Comedy Award victories, but he was not someone with whom I was particularly au fait – that was until I watched him have to sabotage his teammates in Series 14 of Taskmaster. This series brings together contestants across the comedy spectrum, from old-time legends like Millican to fairly recent social media breakout star Chawawa, and creates a show that genuinely had me in stitches.

The fact that the show is just as good (if not better) almost 10 years after it first aired is a testament to the quality of the concept and its realisation on TV. The tasks continue to stay original, wacky, and hilarious, and Davies and Horne make the perfect pairing for the Channel 4 masterpiece.

There has to be a reason why Alex Horne’s Taskmaster has since become a worldwide phenomenon, with at least 10 international versions of the show emerging in the wake of the original’s success. I’d like to think I watch the show on repeat so much that I am single-handedly keeping it going, but Taskmaster has developed a cult following, amassing millions of views each series. I’m currently writing my application to help run the Taskmaster wiki fan page. 

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