Taskmaster returns for sixteenth run

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Thursday: Taskmaster (Channel 4, 9pm)

When Taskmaster launched back in 2015, few people realised just how much mileage there was in the format.

Now that doesn’t mean that the first series – which gave us such incredible sights as Frank Skinner and Rob Beckett trying to paint the best picture of a horse while simultaneously riding one – wasn’t hugely entertaining. However, any show that relies on dreaming up ridiculous tasks and then convincing a group of famous comedians to have a go at them would seem to have a limited shelf-life.

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Fortunately, it turns out that we’re nowhere near to running out of either challenges or willing contestants, as this week Taskmaster returns for sixteenth run.

Greg Davies will be taking on the role of the TaskmasterGreg Davies will be taking on the role of the Taskmaster
Greg Davies will be taking on the role of the Taskmaster

As ever, Greg Davies will be taking on the role of the Taskmaster, doling out the points as the contestants compete to what is supposed to be a bust of his head (although he has admitted that it doesn’t really look like him).

At his side is his trusty assistant (and the creator of the show – Taskmaster started life as his 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival Show) ‘Little’ Alex Horne, who will once again be reminding the contestants that all the information they need is on written on the task.

The class of 2023 should all have a very good idea what they are letting themselves in for – after all there are 15 previous series for them to catch up on – but a couple of this year’s hopefuls will also have insider information.

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Sue Perkins is among the contenders, and her comedy partner, Mel Giedroyc, took part back in season four. (She lost to another Bake Off presenter Noel Fielding, but seemed to enjoy the Taskmaster experience so much, she was given a special individual task just so Alex and Greg could see her get frustrated.)

Meanwhile, comedian and Hullraisers creator Lucy Beaumont is married to Jon Richardson, who took part way back in series two (won by Katherine Ryan).

They’ll be going up against comedian and performer Julian Clary, stand-up Sam Campbell, whose previous credits include Bloods, and writer, director and Cheaters star Susan Wokoma.

But who will follow in the footsteps of reigning champion Mae Martin, who displayed remarkable grace under pressure? And will any of the team tasks prove as endearing as the odd couple dynamic between Frankie Boyle and Ivo Graham?

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We’ll get our first inkling tonight as everyone tries to get a big duck into a lake. Meanwhile, Lucy is stunned by a canned blindfold, and Greg and Alex come to blows over peas.

And just in case a new run isn’t quite enough Taskmaster for you, not only have Channel 4 signed up for six more series, it’s also launching a junior version, hosted by former contestants Rose Matafeo and Mike Wozniak.

As Alex says: “I’ve watched many, many comedians flounder when given simple instructions over the past few years and I fully expect the competitors in Junior Taskmaster to be both more competent and just as funny.”