Comedy game show, Taskmaster, is back

Thursday: Taskmaster; (Channel 4, 9pm)

The world has needed comedy more than anything else in the past couple of years, and if your taste runs to the downright bonkers, then this Bafta-winning comedy game show is for you.

Greg Davies and loyal sidekick Little Alex Horne are back with series 12, while Alan Davies, Desiree Burch, Guz Khan, Morgana Robinson and Victoria Coren Mitchell are the five brave souls eager to display Greg’s golden head on their mantelpiece.

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They will attempt numerous, apparently pointless tasks, including slathering stuff on space hoppers and digging through doggy bags, testing their ingenuity, dexterity and ability to stay calm under extreme pressure.

Desiree Burch, Morgana Robinson, Greg Davies, Guz Khan, Alex Horne, Victoria Coren Mitchell and Alan Davies

In this opener, Greg and Alex welcome their guests with tasks featuring creepers, catapults and one (fake) cactus.

For Victoria Coren Mitchell, the experience was fun, but one where she had to check her dignity at the door. “People assume that I have dignity,” said the Only Connect host.

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“They’ll go: ‘she’s this sort of woman and she hosts this very cerebral quiz’ so I have a long way to fall. Whereas Desiree, for example, is a comedian with a lot of physical confidence so people will assume she’s going to be really comfortable being ridiculous.”

Coren added: “Actually, I think she’s incredibly dignified. There’s something regal about her. She can be in a skin-tight catsuit, stuck to a fence trying to hold a snooker ball on a shelf, with an amazing elegance. And I absolutely don’t. That’s one of the joys of this show: your assumptions about people on telly are one-dimensional. They only show one side of themselves. This shows everything.”

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Coren Mitchell, who is married to Peep Show’s David, was relieved to find Taskmaster wasn’t a competitive environment. “I haven’t done many TV competitions – I did a Bake Off for Sport Relief, and then I did a show for BBC2 about a dinner party – but you sometimes get people who genuinely care about winning, which I always find odd,” she said.

“What I love about this group of five is they all feel like me. We were genuinely trying to do the task as best we could. The only frustration is if you do it badly, and you’re disappointed in yourself but it’s not about the other people winning and losing, which is a nice thing, and an important thing in life.

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“I’m not going to pretend for my pride that I wasn’t even trying, and that’s why I did badly. I tried absolutely as hard as I possibly could on every single one, and I still turned out to be rubbish.”

She describes having to stand behind a screen in full body silhouette next to Morgana as her lowest point “because she’s like a supermodel which I am definitely not, and I’m always incredibly self-conscious about being looked at when I have to be quiet,” but did Taskmaster teach her anything about herself?

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“Nothing,” she deadpanned. “I was happily cruising along under the assumption that I was quite good at mind games… and thinking I could probably win Taskmaster if I ever did it. Now I know the truth. For me the lesson is that it’s better to quietly sit at home thinking about all the things you could be good at, instead of trying them.

“That’s my message to young people: squash your ambitions back into a can and just be happy.”

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