It’s becoming something of a tradition for me to review the first episode of a new series of Taskmaster and to try and predict whether it’s going to be a good season or not. With Series 7 I was fairly confident it would be a great one but I didn’t guess just how fantastic it would be, whereas with series 8 I was hopeful it’d turn out well but had my doubts about Joe Thomas, only for him to quickly evolve in to my favourite contestant of the series as his constant state of confusion and fear often proved to be hilarious.
It’s also a show which could be described as “Contestant proof”, in that as irritating or bad a comedian / presenter the contestant might be elsewhere they’ve still managed to be fairly funny on the show itself, if only because they’ve been utterly rubbish or ridiculously competitive. It’s not always been the case, Josh Widdecombe was beyond tiresome throughout the first series, but most of the time it has been. But unfortunately for the first time it might be a series which I slightly struggle with, beforehand I predicted I might not click with Jo Brand and absolutely detest David Baddiel and that looks like it could indeed be the case.
Admittedly this is only the first episode and my feelings may well change in the same way that they did last year, but right now Baddiel and Brand sadly really are quite, quite weak. With Jo Brand it’s just that she’s not that funny, but Baddiel is actively a dick and someone who made me groan time and again with his efforts in the task, which doesn’t bode well. On the plus side Matafeo, Gamble and Wix were pretty fantastic at least, so I don’t think that it’s going to be a disaster in any way, just not one of the series that I ever rewatch or look back on in a particularly fond manner.
As for the episode and the specific tasks, as always it opened with the prize task where this time around they were asked to bring in a selection of “Stressful Things”. It wasn’t a great way to begin, as bar Katy Wix’s unusual home made tea pot and Ed Gamble’s annoying sounds it was fairly dissatisfactory and lacking in laughs, with Jo Brand’s humble bragging regarding playing Bach’s Toccatta annoying a little. Still, prize tasks are often feeble, and it’s a round which either needs reworking or dropping, and thankfully the first proper task where they had to hide aubergines was a very likeable one. Ed cruelly insulting Alex is something I think has a lot of mileage in it, Rose proved herself an adept improviser in the studio as well, Jo’s efforts raised the odd smile, and though Katy Wix was slightly rubbish it was in a very likeable way, while only Baddiel let the side down by being lazy and predictable.
Following on from this was a task where they had to find a dodo while unable to see, which was a very mediocre activity if only because visually it didn’t really give anyone the chance to do anything that amusing. Still, Rose Matafeo was amusing enough, the daft prank played on Ed Gamble made me childishly giggle, and only Baddiel was once again an annoying idiot. Though when back in the studio I have to confess that Jo Brand’s utterance “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vagina” made me cringe, it being one of the least funny things ever said on the show.
Fortunately the next task gave everyone a chance to be imaginative and unpredictable as they had to come up with a “Dramatic Entrances”, it did start badly as we saw Baddiel impersonate Doctor Who and do nothing funny with it, but pleasingly it improved as it went on as Jo Brand did a vaguely amusing impersonation of Henry VII and Ed Gamble psychologically disturbed me for the rest of my life in a very funny way. Meanwhile Katy Wix’s weird cult bemused, and Rose Matafeo’s Marlon Brando impersonation saved an average idea and made me laugh a lot.
Finally there was the studio task, which are rarely great and are another element of the series which probably should be ditched, and that proved to be the case again as everyone had to “Draw the second longest snake on toilet paper” which was incredibly dull, if only because it was so boring to watch five people draw on toilet paper. Still, Baddiel made me laugh for the first time by thinking he had to draw the second longest snake “in the world”, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
Despite the above criticisms Taskmaster is a series I still like an enormous amount and Matafeo, Wix and Gamble should make it a genuinely funny and enjoyable selection of episodes. But for the first time ever it’s not something I’m going to be looking forward to watching each and every episode as it’s going to be weighed down by Baddiel and Brand being either bland or actively shit, which is a real shame. Unless I’m wrong, and they suddenly start being brilliant, and I really hope that is the case, but I’m probably being crazily optimistic with such a thought sadly.