Don’t miss the new series of Taskmaster

Thursday: Taskmaster; (Channel 4, 9pm)
This series line up includes Daisy May Cooper, Jonny Vegas, Greg Davies, Richard Herring, Alex Horne, Katherine Parkinson, Mawaan RizwanThis series line up includes Daisy May Cooper, Jonny Vegas, Greg Davies, Richard Herring, Alex Horne, Katherine Parkinson, Mawaan Rizwan
This series line up includes Daisy May Cooper, Jonny Vegas, Greg Davies, Richard Herring, Alex Horne, Katherine Parkinson, Mawaan Rizwan

As the trailer for the new series of Taskmaster makes very clear, Channel 4 wasn’t always convinced that this show had the makings of a hit – they initially turned it down.

However, the freeview channel Dave clearly saw the potential in a format where Greg Davies, ably assisted by ‘Little’ Alex Horne (as Horne occasionally points out, he’s actually 6’2”, but most people look small next to the 6’8” Davies), gets a group of comedians, actors and presenters to take on unlikely challenges.

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Dave was proved right – Taskmaster went on to be a hit with viewers and critics alike, winning Broadcast Awards and being nominated for multiple Baftas. It ran for nine series on Dave, has been sold to multiple countries and now Channel 4 has seen the light and picked it up for the 10th run.

Horne, who despite his sidekick role is also the show’s creator, said: “We’ve had an amazing nine series on Dave and I’d like to thank UKTV for letting us do such ridiculous things for so long. It seems like the right time to move to a channel with a broader audience and I can reassure people who like the show that it won’t be changing one bit and I’ll still be forced to do things no one should ever have to do.”

So, for newcomers, what makes Taskmaster so compelling? Well, there’s the nature of the tasks for a start. From writing songs about a stranger and creating live-action versions of computer games to knocking over a row of rubber ducks, they are endlessly inventive and sometimes fiendish – like the time the contestants had to make the most exotic sandwich, without realising that for the second part of the task, they would have to eat it themselves.

Then there’s the celebrity line-ups. The five contestants take part in a whole series, which can sometimes be a problem if the combinations don’t quite work (not mentioning any names) but yields fantastic results when the chemistry is right. Many fans will have their own favourite series, but the fifth run, which was ultimately won by Bob Mortimer, and the seventh season, where James Acaster became incensed at what he saw as Davies’ favouritism towards his old friend Rhod Gilbert, must be near the top of most people’s lists.

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Taskmaster has also given us some unique insights into the nation’s comedians. Who would have known that David Baddiel was quite so impractical or that Noel Fielding, while expectedly good at any art-based challenges, also had a sporty side?

Now it’s time to discover the hidden talents of a brand new line-up, which consists of two Bafta winners in the form of This Country actress and writer Daisy May Cooper (This Country, BBC Three) and the IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson, and acclaimed comedians Johnny Vegas, Mawaan Rizwan and Richard Herring.

And, as Horne has said, while there may be some tweaks due to Covid-19, the format remains largely the same, as the contestants face giant bears, disappearing cows and flying eggs.

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