Exploding eggs, giant teddybears and disappearing sofas. What sounds like a classic hallucinatory fever dream is actually the first episode of Taskmaster’s 10th series – the panel show’s Channel 4 debut – in a nutshell.
The bizarre gameshow, which first aired on UKTV channel Dave, recently made the leap to Channel 4, jumping up a page or so on the TV guide to fill the broadcaster’s Thursday prime time slot from next week onwards. While some fans were worried that the move would compromise Taskmaster’s charmingly scrappy style and informal format, I can report that it’s still just as ridiculous and entertaining as ever.
For those unfamiliar with the series hosted by comedian Greg Davies and Alex Horne, the show takes a handful of comedians – which this series includes This Country’s Daisy May Cooper, comedian Johnny Vegas, The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson, Two Weeks to Live’s Mawaan Rizwan and comic Richard Herring – and challenges them to compete in various absurd and pointless tasks, set by Horne, with the aim of impressing “Taskmaster” Davies. The Cuckoo star then awards each contestant points ranging from one to five, depending on how well they did in the task, and the celebrity with the most points by the end of the series wins a golden bust of Davies’ head. (It’s as absurd on-screen as it sounds written down.)
If you’re a big fan of the previous nine series which were birthed by Dave, you’ll be pleased to hear that very little has changed in series 10 – Taskmaster is still the same silly hour of pure escapism, although viewers are bound to find it more valuable in these current, bleak times. Davies is back on his golden throne with his haughty Taskmaster persona turned up to its maximum setting as he mocks Daisy May Cooper’s attempts to carry full glasses of squash across a lawn without stepping on the grass whilst dressed as her own superhero creation Achievement Woman. “Amazing how Achievement Woman so quickly can be made to look like Drunk Woman in Magaluf,” he jokes during the very first challenge.
Meanwhile, show creator Alex Horne is still asking celebs to perform simple-sounding, yet seemingly-impossible tasks for our entertainment, from making objects magically disappear to landings eggs in a frying pan from several feet away.
The few changes that have been introduced in series 10 were clearly COVID-inspired; the studio audience are watching the show from a room next door, while the contestants are spaced out, sitting opposite Davies and Horne in a huge red room which looks like some sort of dystopian arena.
However, most of the show’s challenges still take place in someone’s back garden, complete with the classic Taskmaster item-filled shed, eccentric-looking caravan and massive model cow (which has been the case since series one and is not a coronavirus-related location change as new viewers may initially conclude).
In terms of series 10’s round-up of comic recruits, the five contestants are the perfect, eclectic mix of established TV talent and up-and-coming stand-up that makes this show so watchable – all of different ages, backgrounds and comedy styles.
As ever, the show provides an intriguing glimpse into each celeb’s psyche, their thought-processes and problem-solving abilities, which naturally results in a number of rib-tickling situations. At one point, Mawaan Rizwan tries to fill an egg with helium in an attempt to make it float, while Katherine Parkinson “tiptoe runs” across a garden whilst carrying a giant teddy bear and a tray of drinks for another challenge. Nothing though is as funny as Johnny Vegas’ attempt at the egg challenge, in which we see him wail in despair at the ceiling of a warehouse as a bunch of balloons fly out of his grasp.
With the public in need of a laugh now more than ever, series 10 is sure to bring a smile to many faces throughout October, and while the jump to Channel 4 has changed little in the programme, hopefully it will introduce a whole new audience to the mindless brilliance that is Taskmaster.