Taskmaster
Taskmaster logo.jpg
Genre
Created byAlex Horne
Directed by
  • Andy Devonshire
  • Peter Orton
Presented by
Theme music composerThe Horne Section
Composers
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series13 (+ 4 specials)
No. of episodes117 (inc. 5 specials) (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
  • Richard Allen-Turner
  • James Taylor
  • Jon Thoday
  • Hilary Rosen
  • Rob Aslett
  • Richard Watsham
  • Andy Devonshire
  • Alex Horne
Producers
  • Andy Cartwright
  • Alex Horne
Production locationsClapham Grand (Series 1)
Fountain Studios (Series 2 & 3)
Pinewood Studios (Series 4-present)
Editors
  • Thomas Perrett
  • Mark Sangster
Running time60 minutes (inclusive)
Production companyAvalon Television
DistributorAvalon Distribution[1]
Release
Original network
Picture format16:9 (1080i HDTV)
Original release28 July 2015 (2015-07-28) –
present
Chronology
Related shows

Taskmaster is a British comedy panel game show created by comedian and musician Alex Horne and presented by both Horne and Greg Davies. In the programme a group of five celebrities – mainly comedians – attempt to complete a series of challenges, with Horne acting as umpire in each challenge and Davies judging the work and awarding points based on contestants' performances. The concept for the programme was first created by Horne for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010; he later secured a deal with Dave to adapt it for television with the first episode premiering in 2015. After the ninth series in 2019 the programme was acquired by Channel 4[2] who commissioned six new series to be broadcast over the following three years.[3]

Taskmaster proved a success on British television, spawning a tie-in board game, two books and leading to the creation of international versions of the programme in Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the United States, New Zealand, Croatia, and Portugal as of 2022. During the COVID-19 pandemic Horne hosted #HomeTasking, a series of tasks for people to film in their own homes; for each task, a montage of attempts was posted on YouTube that featured Davies awarding points to his favourite entries.

History

Taskmaster was the brainchild of comedian Alex Horne whose idea was inspired by The Crystal Maze, his work for Big Brother,[4] and his envy of his close friend Tim Key winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2009.[5] The original concept of the programme took place over the course of two years. In 2009, 20 comedians including Stuart Goldsmith, Josie Long, Mark Watson, Tim Key, Joe Wilkinson and Mike Wozniak,[6] received monthly tasks by email over the course of a year stipulating a variety of tasks.[5][7] Horne then presented their efforts as part of a two-hour show titled "The Task Master",[8] at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe focused on demonstrating the differing attempts by the contestants before revealing who won based on their performances. Mike Wozniak won the first Taskmaster competition.[5] In 2011, Horne conducted another stage show titled "Taskmaster II", with ten contestants tackling tasks.[7][9]

Both stage shows proved a success with their audiences, leading Horne to recruit production company Avalon to help produce an adaptation of his concept for television before pitching his idea to several different broadcasters. British television channel Dave took interest in the idea and bought the rights to it, with comedian Greg Davies recruited to help present the programme alongside Horne. However the channel's Deputy Director of Commissioning at the time, Hilary Rosen, was concerned with the structure of the show. Horne assured Rosen that the programme was not like a traditional panel show but "more like a sitcom", to account for the involvement of the same group of contestants who would appear across a series. Another problem with the format of Horne's concept was that shooting a traditional pilot became implausible,[7] despite studio segments having no issues being tested.[10] One plan for the programme was for Davies to use a cane with a golden "T" on the base, but this was later dropped.[11] The pilot premiered on 19 September 2014,[12] and proved a success with viewers. After the pilot was aired, a series of six episodes was commissioned though intended to be shown in any order. Rosen later determined the show should be arranged in an order, pointing out that "this was a show you record and transmit in the same order".[7] The first series proved a success that led to additional series being commissioned over the course of five years;[13][14] the involvement of comedian Frank Skinner as a contestant in the first series, at Horne's request, also helped to entice other comedians to take part in the programme.[7]

In November 2019 rumours that Taskmaster was being moved to another channel were later confirmed by Channel 4 who had secured the rights to the programme, renewing it for six series over the course of three years.[15]

Format

The Taskmaster house, where much of the series is filmed
The Taskmaster house, where much of the series is filmed

Taskmaster is a comedic game show, in which a group of five contestants – mainly comedians, but sometimes including other well-known television personalities – compete against each other by completing tasks assigned to them. In each episode, contestants are shown tackling a series of tasks, supervised and sometimes assisted by Horne. Davies then judges each contestant's performance in each task to determine how many points they receive, generally ranking them from one to five points. The contestant with the highest score in each episode wins a collection of prizes submitted by the contestants themselves as one of the tasks; the one with the highest cumulative score at the end of a series wins a trophy.

Tasks given to contestants range from simple physical challenges, such as "eat as much watermelon as you can in one minute", to more complex or artistic tasks. Some tasks may be timed, consist of multiple stages, or both. In some cases, contestants conduct tasks as a team with one or two other contestants; in such cases all members of a team receive the same score. To complete tasks, contestants often have to apply a level of logic, creativity, or lateral thinking in order to achieve the end goal. Contestants can be disqualified and awarded no points for a task if they fail to achieve the task's objective, inadvertently break one of the task's rules, or cheat. Conversely, they can be given bonus points. Occasionally, prank tasks are given to one contestant alone, who is led to believe the others are performing the same task; Davies may award bonus points for these.

Tasks are mostly pre-recorded before an episode's broadcast; the majority are usually conducted in or around the Taskmaster house, a former groundskeepers' cottage located on the outskirts of a golf course in Dukes Meadows, Chiswick.[16][17] Two tasks are usually conducted during studio segments: an introductory Prize task, in which each contestant supplies an object they possess that conforms to a set theme, all of which will be awarded to the winner of the episode; and a final "Live" task, which the contestants perform onstage in the studio. In the event of a tie in the top score at the end of the episode, either a pre-recorded tiebreaker task between the tied contestants is shown, or a quick live task is performed to determine the winner.

Production

Tasks are filmed with each contestant separately in a house in Chiswick, London.[18] However, Alex Horne's initial plan was to carry out the tasks in the comedians' houses, saying in an interview: "I didn't realise how impractical that would be both in terms of cost – and their lives."[7] Filming tasks takes roughly one day per contestant per episode, filming around eight tasks a day, with the days of filming spread out across several months. Before the studio filming, contestants are forbidden to discuss their tasks and are not shown any footage from the tasks, so that studio reactions are genuine.[18]

Horne designs the tasks to avoid the need for any specialist equipment, so that "people at home [are] able to do the same things".[18] Initially, they planned to have Horne show the right way to complete the task after showing the contestants' attempts, but this was abandoned as "it supposed there was a right way".[10] He also notes that some tasks in the first series involved the general public, but later series avoided this in order to prevent coming across as a "prank show". Some tasks are vetoed by producers for pragmatic reasons, such as "paint the biggest thing red".[18] Others do not turn out as expected, such as "burst all these bubbles [on a massive roll of bubble wrap] – fastest wins", which had been attempted in three different series but not shown in any of them, as "it always ends with people jumping on it for hours".[5]

When asked why he did not present the show, Horne has said that "that was never the plan [...] My role as sidekick is to be sneaky and you can run it from the sides in a really funny way."[7] Horne and Greg Davies had never worked together before Taskmaster;[10] Davies was chosen "because of his authority", Horne says in an interview. He adds that in the pilot, Davies acted as a "dictator figure cross with everyone", but his tone in the show is more relaxed, as "if someone doesn't do something well we really enjoy it so he can be himself".[19]

The series director for Taskmaster is Andy Devonshire, who was previously series director on The Apprentice and the BBC versions of The Great British Bake Off. Peter Orton was director for three episodes in 2016.[20] Production designer James Dillion is responsible for the studio and filming locations as well as the caravan featured from series four onwards,[14] having been past known for designing the original set for The Crystal Maze.[21] The show's theme music was written and performed by The Horne Section, a jazz band led by Horne.[22]

Cast

Indicator(s)
Series Seating
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1 Frank Skinner Josh Widdicombe dagger Roisin Conaty Romesh Ranganathan Tim Key
2 Doc Brown Joe Wilkinson Jon Richardson Katherine Ryan dagger Richard Osman
3 Al Murray Dave Gorman Paul Chowdhry Rob Beckett dagger Sara Pascoe
4 Hugh Dennis Joe Lycett Lolly Adefope Mel Giedroyc Noel Fielding dagger
5 Aisling Bea Bob Mortimer dagger Mark Watson Nish Kumar Sally Phillips
CoC Bob Mortimer Josh Widdicombe dagger Katherine Ryan Noel Fielding Rob Beckett
6 Alice Levine Asim Chaudhry Liza Tarbuck dagger Russell Howard Tim Vine
7 James Acaster Jessica Knappett Kerry Godliman dagger Phil Wang Rhod Gilbert
8 Iain Stirling Joe Thomas Lou Sanders dagger Paul Sinha Sian Gibson
9 David Baddiel Ed Gamble dagger Jo Brand Katy Wix Rose Matafeo
10 Daisy May Cooper Johnny Vegas Katherine Parkinson Mawaan Rizwan Richard Herring dagger
NYT John Hannah Krishnan Guru-Murthy Nicola Coughlan Rylan Clark-Neal Shirley Ballas dagger
11 Charlotte Ritchie Jamali Maddix Lee Mack Mike Wozniak Sarah Kendall dagger
12 Alan Davies Desiree Burch Guz Khan Morgana Robinson dagger Victoria Coren Mitchell
NYT II Adrian Chiles dagger Claudia Winkleman Jonnie Peacock Lady Leshurr Sayeeda Warsi
13 Ardal O'Hanlon Bridget Christie Chris Ramsey Judi Love Sophie Duker dagger
CoC II Ed Gamble Kerry Godliman Liza Tarbuck Lou Sanders Richard Herring dagger
14 Dara Ó Briain Fern Brady John Kearns Munya Chawawa Sarah Millican

Episodes

See also: List of Taskmaster episodes

Series overview

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
1628 July 2015 (2015-07-28)1 September 2015 (2015-09-01)Dave
2521 June 2016 (2016-06-21)19 July 2016 (2016-07-19)
354 October 2016 (2016-10-04)1 November 2016 (2016-11-01)
4825 April 2017 (2017-04-25)13 June 2017 (2017-06-13)
5813 September 2017 (2017-09-13)1 November 2017 (2017-11-01)
CoC213 December 2017 (2017-12-13)20 December 2017 (2017-12-20)
6102 May 2018 (2018-05-02)4 July 2018 (2018-07-04)
7105 September 2018 (2018-09-05)7 November 2018 (2018-11-07)
8108 May 2019 (2019-05-08)10 July 2019 (2019-07-10)
9104 September 2019 (2019-09-04)6 November 2019 (2019-11-06)
101015 October 2020 (2020-10-15)17 December 2020 (2020-12-17)Channel 4
NYT11 January 2021 (2021-01-01)
111018 March 2021 (2021-03-18)20 May 2021 (2021-05-20)
121023 September 2021 (2021-09-23)25 November 2021 (2021-11-25)
NYT II11 January 2022 (2022-01-01)
131014 April 2022 (2022-04-14)16 June 2022 (2022-06-16)
CoC II123 June 2022 (2022-06-23)

Franchise

International broadcast

The British show is also broadcast in Belgium, Iceland, Sweden, South Africa, Norway, Finland, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Croatia[23] and Portugal.[citation needed] On 26 April 2021 a single episode of the spin-off Challengemaster was live streamed in Belgium.[citation needed] In Australia, SBS Viceland started to air Taskmaster episodes on 27 July 2020.[24] The most recently broadcast series is available on SBS on Demand.

In the United States, The CW acquired series 8 and 9 of Taskmaster for a late-Summer run premiering on 2 August 2020. However, the series opened to extremely low viewership (in comparison to the Canadian import, Fridge Wars, which premiered the same day), and was consequently pulled from the network's schedule on 5 August. The CW added the entirety of Series 8 to its "CW Seed" streaming library on 10 August.[25][26][27][28][29]

A subscription streaming service, Taskmaster SuperMax+, debuted in March 2022. It allows worldwide access to the British version of Taskmaster, free from ads. It followed the show's cult popularity in America, despite little streaming availability; a U.S. version of Taskmaster and broadcast of the British version on The CW were not successful.[30] Horne stated that adding international versions to the service may occur at a later date.[31]

International versions

International versions of the programme have been made in Belgium (as Het Grootste Licht) (literally "The Greatest Light", but meaning "The Brightest Bulb"),[32] Sweden (as Bäst i Test) ("Best in Test"),[33] Norway (as Kongen befaler) (literally "The King Commands", Norwegian for Simon Says) [34][35] and Spain (as Dicho y hecho) ("Said and Done").[36] In Denmark the programme is titled Stormester ("Grandmaster") and premiered on 25 August 2018.[37] In April 2017, a US version with Reggie Watts as the Taskmaster and Horne as the assistant was announced, made by Avalon, the same production company for the UK version and originally aired on Comedy Central on 27 April 2018.[35] A German version featuring Atze Schröder as the Taskmaster was commissioned by RTL in 2017; two episodes were recorded but not broadcast.[38][39]

In 2019 it was announced a New Zealand version would be produced, hosted by Jeremy Wells and Paul Williams. Two series have been broadcast in 2020 and 2021 and a third series was confirmed in April 2022 for broadcast later this year.[40][41] Finnish network MTV3 aired a local version Suurmestari [Grandmaster] starting on 12 April 2020.[42] An international adaptation, Direktor svemira [Director of the Universe], by Croatian broadcaster RTL, began to air on 24 November 2021.[43][44] Portugal's RTP1 announced in 2021 that a Portuguese version would start broadcasting in early 2022, hosted by Vasco Palmeirim and Nuno Markl.[45]

Country Title Year(s) Series Network(s) Hosts
 Belgium
 Flanders
Het Grootste Licht 2016 1 VTM Gert Verhulst
Ruth Beeckmans
 Canada
 Quebec
Le maître du jeu 2022 1 Noovo Louis Morissette
Antoine Vézina
 Croatia Direktor svemira 2021 1 RTL Ivan Šarić
Luka Petrušić
 Denmark Stormester [da] 2018–present 5 TV 2 Lasse Rimmer
Mark Le Fêvre
 Finland Suurmestari 2020–present 3 MTV3 Jaakko Saariluoma
Pilvi Hämäläinen
 Germany Taskmaster 2017 pilot only RTL Atze Schröder
Carsten van Ryssen
 New Zealand Taskmaster NZ 2020–present 3 TVNZ 2 Jeremy Wells
Paul Williams
 Norway Kongen befaler 2019–present 5 TVNorge
discovery+
Atle Antonsen
Olli Wermskog
 Portugal Taskmaster 2022 1 RTP1 Vasco Palmeirim
Nuno Markl
 Spain Dicho y hecho [es] 2018 1 La 1 Anabel Alonso
José Corbacho
 Sweden Bäst i Test 2017–present 6 SVT Babben Larsson
David Sundin
 United States Taskmaster 2018 1 Comedy Central Reggie Watts
Alex Horne
Legend:   Currently airing franchise   Franchise with an upcoming series

  Franchise no longer airing   Status unknown

Related media

Books

A tie-in book, Taskmaster — 200 Extraordinary Tasks for Ordinary People, was written by Alex Horne and published by Penguin Random House on 6 September 2018.[46]

Task 185 in the book provided the latitude and longitude of a Buckinghamshire park, with instructions to meet there at midday on 14 September 2019 for a picnic and Taskmaster tour. The event was attended by around 1800 people with Horne himself present to show attendees filming locations from the show.[47]

In September 2019, a paperback edition was published, with 20 new tasks.[48] As well as writing additional tasks, Horne removed the expiration date of 31 December 2019 where it appeared, and replaced tasks that had a set completion date.

In September 2021, a new book titled Bring Me The Head Of The Taskmaster — 101 Next-level Tasks (and Clues) that Will Lead One Ordinary Person to Some Extraordinary Taskmaster Treasure was released. It offered readers the chance to win a real-world Taskmaster prize.[49]

Board game

The board game Taskmaster was released in autumn 2019, initially selling out. It contains 200 task cards, along with secret tasks that individual players must perform, and video tasks featuring Alex Horne.[50]

#HomeTasking

From March to June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic and a period of lockdown in the UK, Alex Horne organised a series of tasks in the style of Taskmaster for the public to perform and record in their own homes. Entries were submitted on Twitter and compilation videos, including scoring of the ten best entries by Greg Davies, were published by the Taskmaster YouTube channel. The first task was "Throw a piece of A4 paper into a bin. Most spectacular throw wins." There were 20 tasks in total.[51][52][53][54]

A new series of Hometasking, started during another lockdown in the UK, began on January 14, 2021, featuring tasks previously performed on the TV show.[55]

Podcast

See also: List of Taskmaster episodes § Podcast

On 15 October 2020, an official podcast began. It is hosted by Ed Gamble, the winner of Series 9, who comments on each featured episode with a special guest. Initially it focused on Series 10, with each podcast released immediately after each Taskmaster episode was broadcast.[56] Episode 12 of the podcast focused on the 2021 "New Year Treat", and then from episode 13 onwards it returned to the very beginning starting with Taskmaster Series 1 Episode 1, returned to "real-time" episodes during the broadcast run of series 11, 12 and NYT 2022 before returning to the older series after the newer series concluded.

Reception

Critical reception

Andrew Billen of The Times gave a five star review of the show's first episode, "Melon Buffet", calling it "funny, revealing, and glorious" and comparing it to The Generation Game.[57] In another review of the first episode, Filipa Jodelka of The Guardian describes Taskmaster as a panel show with an "edgy parlour-game twist". Jodelka praises the "molten-hot banter" between contestants and Davies, and compares the arbitrary awarding of points to QI and Numberwang.[58] Also reviewing "Melon Buffet", Ellen Jones of The Independent praised the show as entertaining despite its "informal and cheap-looking" style.[59]

Wesley Mead of Den of Geek wrote a positive review in 2016, praising the show as the "crowning jewel" of original programming on Dave, and approving of the design of the tasks and the range of approaches that contestants demonstrate. Mead believed that the second series was an improvement on the first, but criticised that the first three series had only one female contestant apiece.[60]

Awards and nominations

Awards and nominations received by Taskmaster
Year Award Category Recipients Result Ref
2016 British Comedy Guide Awards Best TV Entertainment Show Won [61]
2017 British Academy Television Awards Best Comedy and Comedy Entertainment Programme Alex Horne, Andy Cartwright, Andy Devonshire Nominated [62]
International Emmy Award Non-Scripted Entertainment Avalon Television, Dave Nominated [63]
RTS Programme Awards Best Entertainment Programme Avalon Television Nominated [64]
British Comedy Guide Awards Best TV Entertainment Show Won [65]
2018 British Academy Television Awards Best Comedy and Comedy Entertainment Programme Alex Horne, Andy Cartwright, Andy Devonshire Nominated [66]
British Comedy Guide Awards Best TV Entertainment Show Won [67]
2019 British Comedy Guide Awards Best TV Entertainment Show Nominated [68]
2020 British Academy Television Awards Best Comedy and Comedy Entertainment Programme Alex Horne, Andy Cartwright, Andy Devonshire, James Taylor Won [69]
British Comedy Guide Awards Best TV Entertainment Show Won [70]
2021 British Comedy Guide Awards Best TV Entertainment Show Won [71]
Comedy of the Year Won
2022 National Comedy Awards Best Comedy Entertainment Show Won

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