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‘Taskmaster’ is now available on YouTube: is this the best British TV show in years?

The cult British show has just announced that its full episodes and clips are now available to watch on YouTube

Greg Davies and Alex Horne of 'Taskmaster'. Courtesy Avalon Television
Greg Davies and Alex Horne of 'Taskmaster'. Courtesy Avalon Television

People with a penchant for wasting time on the internet were given a very early Christmas present last week when the Twitter page for cult British television show Taskmaster suddenly announced that full episodes and clips would be uploaded to their YouTube channel.

So why should this excite you? Well, it's a bold call, but we're willing to go out on a limb here and dub this one of the best British shows in recent memory. But if you've never heard of it, you're probably not alone.

What is 'Taskmaster'?

Not only does it currently air on the ludicrously named, seldom watched UK TV channel Dave, but any synopsis of the silliest game show to ever grace the small screen invariably skips over what makes it so entertaining and instead makes it sound cheap and disposable.

And while it should be pointed out that Taskmaster is most definitely cheap and disposable, this is just a small part of what makes it so utterly appealing, as you can turn your mind off and imagine exactly how you’d tackle the task at hand. The premise, after all, is pretty simple.

Each season creator and writer Alex Horne asks five comedians to take part in a series of wonderfully ridiculous tasks. These have previously included eating as much melon as possible in 60 seconds, getting a potato into a golf hole, writing a song about a stranger, filling an eggcup with tears, high-fiving a 55-year-old, painting a picture of a horse while riding a horse, and impressing the mayor of Chesham.

Their efforts are then judged by the Taskmaster himself, comedian and The Inbetweeners star Greg Davies, who hands out five points to the winner of each round.

Sound mad? Well, it is a bit. At the same time, though, it’s also ingeniously inventive, deliciously simple to follow, and always finds new and surprising ways to make its viewers genuinely howl with laughter.

Why this seemingly ridiculous show is so popular

Since its debut in July, 2015, Taskmaster’s rise has been meteoric. Not only have there been nine seasons in just over four years, but its viewing figures have tripled during this time, with the first episode of its latest run being watched by 1.48 million people in the UK alone.

In fact, the show has become so popular that while its first season only consisted of six episodes, the ninth went up to 10.

The main reason for Taskmaster’s success obviously belongs to Horne, who has clearly developed a knack for dreaming up relatively simple tasks and then giving them a twist that leads to each of the contestants approaching them in different, and usually increasingly hilarious, ways. However, the key to the show’s longevity was undoubtedly the decision to make the imperious Davies the Taskmaster.

Since he stands at 6ft 8in tall, and literally sits on a huge golden throne, you might be forgiven for thinking that Davies controls Taskmaster with an iron first.

Especially since he’s the one that decides who gets the most and least amount of points and gives the winner of the show a statue of his head.

Comedian Roisin Conaty on 'Taskmaster'. Courtesy Avalon
Comedian Roisin Conaty on 'Taskmaster'. Courtesy Avalon

However, it doesn’t take much for the Welsh comedian to deflate into a fit of childish giggles, a sound and sight that is immediately contagious, while he knows exactly when to be either serious or dismissive and always has a witty line waiting to drop if required, too.

Most of the time, though, all Davies and Horne have to do to generate a laugh is show the ridiculous ways that the contestants have interpreted the tasks. Even here, the producers of Taskmaster deserve an immense amount of credit, because year after year they’ve assembled the perfect roster of comedians to compliment each other.

The fact that these very funny men and women have several tasks an episode to show how smart, imaginative and hilarious they can be means that there’s a genuine competitiveness to the show, too. It never feels mean-spirited, though. Sure, Davies constantly bullies Horne, who sits next to him as his assistant, but even that is done in such an outrageous manner that it is never unpleasant to watch.

Will 'Taskmaster' move to BBC or ITV? We hope not

Rather than on other panel shows where comedians have to compete for airtime and only have a couple of minutes to showcase their voice and talent, on Taskmaster, because of the variety of their assignments and the fact that they appear on several episodes in a row, you feel as though you get a genuine insight into their personalities. Horne himself has even described Taskmaster as more like a sitcom, and as each season progresses you can see everyone involved getting more and more at ease with the concept and each other.

Which makes the rumours that the more established British television channels, BBC, Channel 4 and ITV, are all showing interest in snapping up Taskmaster, now that its five-year license with Dave is at an end, all the more alarming.

Going mainstream wouldn’t suit Taskmaster, which has always felt more like a plucky underdog, one that, despite the dramatic changes to the television landscape during its run, is a perfect mix of the high and low brow, and a reminder that watching silly people doing silly things will always be entertaining.

Updated: November 21, 2019 01:55 PM

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