Rejoice! After 6 long months, a brand-new Series of Taskmaster makes its way to Dave next week, featuring 5 brand new contestants, 10 episodes full of new mundane tasks and a whole heap more of TV’s favourite couple, Greg Davies and “Little” Alex Horne! For those already on board, each new series brings an air of excitement at what may be in store in terms of how the new cast navigate their way through the set tasks, the running themes that will start to become apparent as each episode passes and – perhaps most fun of all – some of the weirdest and most off-kilter water cooler moments possible. Series 8’s contestants will be Iain Sterling, Joe Thomas, Lou Sanders, Paul Sinha and Sian Gibson – a group whose dynamic will be interesting to see straight from the get-go.
I’ve been watching Taskmaster since Series 2 which aired in 2016, and I was hooked from the very first episode I saw. Over the years, as each new series has come, I’ve been vocal about my love for the show and have spent many a conversation trying to get people to give it a go. Everyone I know who’s watched it has enjoyed it, ostensibly I don’t think it’s a show anyone can really hate – you may dislike certain contestants on different series, maybe you’re not a fan of Greg Davies (mental, but possible), but aside from the cast, it’s a show that just draws you in and makes you want more. Part of the joy of the show is watching the contestants carry out these tasks whilst pondering to yourself on how you would go about doing it. On top of that, I genuinely don’t think any show has made me laugh as consistently as Taskmaster does.
To celebrate the return of Taskmaster, and to whet our appetites for what’s in store, let’s take a look back at some of our favourite moments from each of the previous 7 series
Series 1 featured Frank Skinner, Josh Widdicombe, Roisin Conaty, Romesh Ranganathan and Tim Key, and hadn’t quite grown into its own ideas yet. It was effectively a pilot series, feeling its way through to discover what works, what’s funny and just how far they could push the tasks. Highlights include Josh Widdicombe getting a tattoo on his foot as a gift for the Taskmaster, throwing teabags into mugs at a distance and identifying the contents of pies without breaching the pastry.
The moment selected here however sees Romesh Ranganathan, usually known as a reasonably grumpy man, leaving his comfort zone a little whilst filming something that will look impressive in reverse – otherwise known as ‘Tree Wizard’!
Series 2 featured Doc Brown, Jon Richardson, Joe Wilkinson, Katherine Ryan and Richard Osman, one of my favourite series in terms of the cast. This series saw a lot of tasks involving potatoes, and started with each contestant having to get 3 exercise balls onto a yoga mat at the top of a hill. Elsewhere, we saw contestants creating videos for nursery rhymes, impressing a Mayor by any means possible, concealing a pineapple upon themselves and creating stop motion films starring a potato.
When I suggest Taskmaster to people, I always say to go and watch the first episode of this series – I think it encapsulates what’s possible on the show quite well, with huge victories, funny fails and one of my all-time favourite Taskmaster moments featuring the valiant rise and tragic fall of Joe Wilkinson. I won’t spoil that moment here, but the clip chosen shows Katherine Ryan and Richard Osman doing the same task as Joe.
Series 3 saw Al Murray, Dave Gorman, Paul Chowdry, Rob Beckett and Sara Pascoe take the stage. Across the series, several running themes developed – from Al choosing to throw money at a lot of tasks (as well as doing his best to bend interpretations of the rules) to Dave attempting to cheat at a good number of tasks and frequently being caught out, and of course Paul Chowdry just being…well, he tried! There was balloon-popping, Snowman making, egg cups full of sweat and charades played across a river!
The clip I’d like to have shown here features Al, Dave and Paul having created the best special effect on a green screen (it was basically Al’s head as a football on a wonderful journey) but unfortunately, I couldn’t find it anywhere outside of the episode itself. Instead, let’s take a look at Al and Sara attempting to get to a microwave in as few steps as possible.
Series 4’s line-up included Hugh Dennis, Joe Lycett, Lolly Adefope, Mel Giedroyc and Noel Fielding in perhaps the best cast the series has had to date – I would certainly say so. All 5 contestants this series stood out in their own ways – even Lolly who seemed quiet at times had standout moments. I would say that this series is the closest the show has come to surreal at times, accentuated by Noel Fielding of course, and was consistent in its hilarity. Each task saw at least one person go all out and get a big laugh. One highlight sees a task only set for Joe to smile at the camera every 30 seconds during an otherwise normal task that had been set for everyone. We saw Noel Fielding take advantage of the ‘costume’ he had chosen for himself this series to conceal himself within a fruit bowl. There were trailers for ‘Taskmaster: The Movie’, obstacle courses navigated with blindfolds and a lack of English, exotic sandwiches and a proper game of Hide ’n’ Seek.
There are so many moments to choose from in this series that it’s been tough to pick just one, so I went for a simpler one. Given the task to knock all of the rubber ducks onto the ground from behind a red rope, Joe Lycett finds a very successful method of doing it.
Series 5 saw Aisling Bea, Bob Mortimer, Mark Watson, Nish Kumar and Sally Phillips compete for the Taskmaster trophy. Across the series we saw special cuddles, coconut flinging machines and flip-book films. We also saw the contestants try to make themselves sneeze, attempt to make marmite and were even given the task to create the most remarkable water cooler moments, which saw Sally create something that needs to be seen rather than read to be honest.
Elsewhere, we saw Mark alone given the task to send a cheeky text to the Taskmaster every day for 5 months, which led to some fallout when he discovered he was the only one doing so. The definite highlight, however, saw the contestants split into 2 teams and tasked with writing a song for a stranger named Rosalind. They were given a period of time to ask Rosalind questions, then time to write their song, after which it would be performed. Both teams excelled here, Mark and Nish crafting a song that is genuinely pretty good all around, whilst Bob, Aisling and Sally crafted a hilarious set of lyrics delivered in a rather ramshackle way. Here’s Mark and Nish’s song, ‘Always Seeing You (Do Cool Stuff)’.
Series 6’s line-up included Alice Levine, Asim Chaudry, Liza Tarbuck, Russell Howard and Tim Vine, and I don’t think it’s controversial to say it was perhaps the weakest series of the show. Which sounds far too harsh really, it was still good, and each of the cast had great moments (it pains me to say it, but even Russell did, and I really dislike him). On the whole, I think it was a cast of people who were more laid back, which meant the studio sections between tasks weren’t as fun as they can be when someone is willing to stand up for themselves or poke fun at someone else. All the same we still saw some great things, including wheelbarrow stunts, darts, snooker trick shots and heavy plastic bags.
I have, however, gone for another of the simpler tasks for this series, in which contestants had to put something genuinely surprising inside a chocolate egg. We’re not talking Easter Egg size though, we’re looking at a Kinder Egg, which is about the size of a regular egg for anyone not in the UK. Here we see Asim and Tim’s attempts.
The most recent series at this point saw another brilliant cast, featuring James Acaster, Jessica Knappett, Kerry Godliman, Phil Wang and Rhod Gilbert. This series is another of my favourites, the cast particularly gelled together well this time around, and the 2 I knew the least about going into the show ended up becoming 2 of my favourite contestants ever (Jessica and Kerry). We saw quick-change outfits, incredible noises, baked bean measurements and some incredibly eye-watering attempts not to blink, especially from Rhod.
It was another series for which choosing a single moment was difficult – I’d be remiss not to mention the video game challenge as one of the best tasks ever devised on the show, and the attempts from the cast were suitably brilliant. But I don’t want to spoil those here, they need to all be seen together. Instead, I’ve opted instead for another of my favourite moments. When tasked with writing and performing the most suspenseful Soap-Opera cliff-hanger, Jessica and Kerry came up with a tale of 2 Donnas in ‘Cul De Sac’.
If you’ve not watched the show before, I hope your interest has been piqued enough to give it a shot when Series 8 begins next week.
Taskmaster Series 8 starts at 9PM on Wednesday 8th May on Dave. All previous series are available on UKTVPlay
By Matt Dobbie