TV Review: Taskmaster, Dave


I don’t think Taskmaster is the first Edinburgh Fringe show to turn into a TV panel game but I’m pretty sure it is the first Edinburgh Fringe show that I’ve taken part in that ended up as a panel game. A few years ago Alex Horne invited me to join the team. At that time the show lasted an entire year - each month we were given a different task and only found out how we’d done when the results were revealed onstage in Edinburgh. Needless to say, I lost. I think the person who lovingly carved an exact replica of Alex Horne’s head might have won (all I did that month was draw his face on a boiled egg).

Anyway, the TV version started last night. Horne is now – in the best possible way, not a relegation, though maybe a reflection of celebrity pulling power – the sidekick to host Greg Davies. The competitors included some of the hottest comics around (cynics might say including some of the hottest comics on production company Avalon’s books) – Frank Skinner, Roisin Conaty, Tim Key, Josh Widdicombe and Romesh Ranganathan.

The tasks had mostly been pre-filmed, which was handy as the studio scenes, shot at the Clapham Grand, were, how shall we put this, a little rough and ready. Luckily the challenges were carried out with absurdist aplomb. They also prompted flashbacks of my own experience of Taskmaster – that comedians are extremely competitive and also often have a lateral way of thinking. 

Tim Key, for instance, was either a genius or a cheat or both. When he emptied a bath by diving in it (I guessed he’d do that as he has done it in his live show) he won the round, but slo-mo footage revealed that somehow the plug had been removed, which was a breach of the rules. 

Elsewhere when it came to eating as much watermelon as possible Key just slammed straight into the fleshy fruit with his teeth, whereas Roisin Conaty took 59 of the 60 seconds allowed to find a suitable knife to cut it open.

A psychologist would have a field day analysing the personalities. Some did mainly play by the rules, others struggled to stick with the guidelines, but let’s face it, painting a horse while on a horse is not the easiest of tasks. I fancied that Widdicombe would win this as I knew his family owned horses, but he claimed that he had no interest in equine matters precisely because he had grown up with them.

The final task took place in the studio. The quintet had to get into a pop-up tent and put a onesie on in there. Romesh Ranganathan was one of the slowest, but at least he got into his tent. Roisin Conaty tried to change by using the tent as a screen, but got found out.

The scoring was fairly arbitrary, but we still won’t reveal the winner in case you are planning to watch on catch-up. For some reason the Guardian has piled into this programme and said that for a UK comedian their ultimate ambition is to appear on a panel show. Patent bollocks. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of them will be queuing up to appear on Taskmaster.

Taskmaster, Dave, 10pm, Tuesdays. Watch the first episode on catch-up here.

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