Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Taskmaster’s New Year Treat review – a magical, miraculous hour guaranteed to lighten your mood
Culture TV and Radio

Taskmaster’s New Year Treat review – a magical, miraculous hour guaranteed to lighten your mood

Yuletide telly is often credited with providing “festive cheer”, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to do Christmas properly, that’s not the time when you need a screen to pep up your outlook. New Year cheer is what we want – something to brighten the days in early January when the needles have fallen off the tree, the whisky cream has crusted and the darkness outside is forbidding. Step forward Taskmaster’s New Year Treat, an annual bonus from a show that reliably lightens one’s mood.

These special events are intended to provide non-comedians with an opportunity to perform. The idea is that those who are not funny by trade would struggle to maintain a full season. However, the new lineup does have a few tricks up its sleeve. Lenny Rush, known for his roles in “Am I Being Unreasonable?” and “Dodger,” is a professional comedian and would have no trouble sustaining a full season. The only challenge may be his young age of 14.

Immediately, Rush jumps into action during the initial presentation round, which focuses on items that would create a commotion if introduced to a group of unfamiliar people. His response to rapper Kojey Radical’s suggestion of six robotic puppies, hinting that he may have seven of his own, showcases his quick thinking and improvisational skills. Host Greg Davies, who has witnessed numerous clever retorts during his tenure as Taskmaster, visibly acknowledges Rush’s talent before he effortlessly delivers his rehearsed lines: “As the only youngster present, I wanted to find a way to fit in, so I brought…beer and cigarettes.”

A covert comedian, who has showcased her impeccable comedic timing on shows like Murder in Successville and Mandy, is perfectly suited for a one-off appearance on Taskmaster. The initial task requires consuming an absurd number of poppadoms. “As a businesswoman, I am serious,” Meaden remarks to Alex Horne, the show’s creator, while taking breaks from voracious chewing. “I make deals daily and am taken seriously by others.” The brief pause between her statement and another handful of crispy appetizers entering her mouth is expertly timed, resembling that of a seasoned sitcom performer.

Seriously funny … Deborah Meaden gets her poppadom task.

A single episode of Taskmaster does not provide enough time to capture the fast-paced banter and dynamic interactions between seven comedians as they complete tasks and earn points. However, if the show’s top comedian lineups form a sense of family as they grow together, this special episode has the atmosphere of a group gathering to play parlor games. Taskmaster consistently achieves a remarkable balance, remaining clever and edgy without crossing into cruelty, and this is evident in abundance here.

In this round, the participants are required to create a self-portrait on an iPad without using their hands. Many of them use their noses to paint, but Radical and Rush figure out ways around this rule by using a banana and Alex Horne’s finger as makeshift styluses. The game is essentially like Pictionary, with everyone laughing at how poorly the artwork turns out. While it may seem like simple fun, the task becomes more challenging as the artists must also act increasingly angry while drawing. This allows the comedy professionals to showcase their skills, with Meaden being particularly skilled at addressing people with sharpness in her business dealings. The acting aspect of the round also aligns with Radical’s game plan, as he creates an imaginary conflict with Horne, mimicking the hilarious dynamic between Davies and his sidekick.

Horne’s willingness to be the target of jokes is evident in the poppadom round as well, where participants must eat quickly while also exchanging insults with the co-host. Surprisingly, TV personality Steve Backshall shines in this round with his clever jabs, such as “I’ve never been a fan of the Horne Section.” Even Radio 2 host Zoe Ball gets in on the fun, emphasizing the word “wankflap” when prompted by Davies.

The highlight of the episode occurs during the most entertaining challenge of the week. The task involves a desk filled with various items that have the ability to “pop” in some form – such as bubblegum, a balloon, a cat feeder, and a toaster. The participants are tasked with making all of these items go off at the same time. Horne notices that Meaden is not familiar with using a regular toaster and jokingly tells her it is voice-activated. Meaden momentarily falls for the joke, resulting in a hilarious clip where she stands over a £30 appliance and commands the two slices of bread inside to “go down”.

Ignore the advertisement for the newsletter.

In the studio, Meaden finds great joy in being a key player in crafting more intriguing moments for Taskmaster. This program is truly enjoyable.

Source: theguardian.com