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Series / Taskmaster (U.S.)

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The cast (from L to R): Ron Funches, Kate Berlant, Lisa Lampanelli, Reggie Watts, Alex Horne, Freddie Highmore, and Dillon Francis

Taskmaster is an American adaptation of the UK-hit Taskmaster with Reggie Watts taking on the titular role. He was assisted by franchise creator Alex Horne, reprising his role from the original series. The show aired for one season on Comedy Central in 2018.

This series transplanted the original format in broad strokes, even reusing tasks used previously on the British version. Like all versions of Taskmaster, celebrity contestants are asked/forced to take part in various challenges that appear straightforward but sometimes require a lot of lateral thinking to complete.

The contestants for this iteration were: Lisa Lampanelli, Ron Funches, Kate Berlant, Freddie Highmore, and Dillon Francis. Final Scores.

Major changes from the original format include a running time being cut from 45 minutes to 21, the prize task changing from a scored round to the contestants each taking turns to donate an item to be used as an episode's prize, and the teams tasks being dropped entirely (although one team task from the UK version was adapted into a solo task).

The format (seemingly) didn't catch on with American audiences, with the adaptation lasting for one season before Watts confirmed that it had been canceled. Rights to air the British show were bought by the CW in 2020, with reruns starting from Series 8; after low viewing figures, however, the show was taken off the air and relegated to the CW's streaming service. Nevertheless, it turns out that the format has caught on with Americans to some extent, which led to the creation of the Taskmaster SuperMax+ subscription service (hence the "seemingly"). The American version has yet to be released on that service, however.

Tropes specific to the American version of Taskmaster:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Kate in the stage task of "Engineering". The task was in two parts, and the contestants had to guess what to do with the items in front of them. The second part was to hold them all up and touch their head with their other hand. Kate had taped all her items together, and so won the task.
  • Aside Glance: Alex, on occasion.
  • Audience Participation: Kate uses this as her weird noise for the Stage Task in the "Ebony" episode.
  • Bullying the Disabled: Not to the extreme the trope tends to use, but Lisa claims her upper-body strength is the equivalent of Stephen Hawking. Cue Dude, Not Funny! from the other contestants. She claims that it's OK if he's not here.
  • Butt-Monkey: Twice.
    • Fellow Englishman Freddie Highmore had a unique condition to a task in "Ebony". The task required him to get a ping pong ball out of a hole-ridden tube, and for him specifically, only Freddie had to speak in accents other than his own, and had opted for a mix of Scottish, French and Italian. The same stipulation was applied to him at the last minute by Reggie when he had to read out the Stage task of that episode. He chose to use a French accent for that.
    • Ron Funches never won an episode of the show.
  • Callback: The final prize task of the entire series ("101 ducks") consisted of an item from each episode that was used in a task: an extra-large pizza, old ice...which is now water, a microwave, a leaf blower, a basketball, a picture of Ebony the model horse, some handcuffs, and a giant rubber duck.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: A task in "Bubbles" was to give the contestants 10 minutes to camouflage themselves in any part of the house, and not get detected by Reggie when he was shown the pictures in the studio. Dillon wore a blue tarpaulin and hid himself in the Pool, Rob hid underneath a massive comfy chair outside, Lisa hid behind a curtain outside, Kate disguised herself on the coat rack, wearing half a coat and a hat angled towards the camera, with decoy boots/ hair placed to obfuscate her location, while Freddie hid underneath the water, with only a wooden board hiding him from view. Both Dillon and Freddie got spotted, the former not getting the right shade of blue to match the pool water, and the latter sticking out like a sore thumb, and was immediately spotted by everyone in the studio. Everyone else successfully defeated Reggie with their camouflage, with Kate getting five points, Rob and Lisa getting four points, Freddie getting two points, and Dillon getting one point.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lisa seems to have very colorful language, and often gets bleeped out. Lampshaded in "Engineering", as at the start of a task in "Engineering", Alex decides to start with the angriest person and then points out that, for once, He wasn't referring to Lisa. He was referring to Dillon.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: An ad-break will leave a cliffhanger on the last 1 - 2 people to complete a task. The final task and its results are always separated by an ad-break.
  • Crowd Chant: After winning a task involving creating a flag in the form of food in "Engineering", Kate and the audience chant "U.S.A" repeatedly to celebrate victory.
  • Cutting the Knot:
    • In "Die, Die, Die", a task required a block of ice to disappear as fast as possible. Most of the contestants did what was logical, and tried to smash the block of ice up with various tools. Not Lisa, who decided to hide the block of ice in a basket, then place a rug over it to hide it from view (the task specified it had to disappear, not necessarily by melting it). Lisa wins the full 5 points.
    • In "Hostage", Lisa didn't understand the task of freeing Alex properly (the task letter had the required information written in UV Ink), as so interpreted it as creating her own task. Alex does point out that the task wasn't done, but was adamant that the clock should be stopped. Reggie gives her one point for creativity.
    • In "101 Ducks", a task required the contestants to knock over 101 ducks perched on two walls, while standing behind a velvet rope. Freddie had the idea of looping rope around the walls, and pulling on them to feel one of the walls. He also got a hose and tried sprinkling some water to fell those ducks, but failed to do so, and resorted to throwing balls at it instead He took 38 seconds, and won second place, and 4 points.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Lisa tries to use a vacuum tube to get a ball out of a hole-ridden tube for one of the tasks in "Ebony". It gets stuck, and while Lisa is able to retrieve the tube and do the task, Lisa gets no points as the task specified the Tube couldn't move, and it had fallen off of the table
    • In "Magnets and Magic", a task required Lisa to get to a microwave in as few steps as possible. Lisa attempts to swim to the microwave, only to be made freezing cold after getting out of the pool, and, more crucially, her plan didn't work as expected, as the Microwave was in a shed, not near a body of water. This did get Lampshaded by Reggie after the video.
  • Enemy Mine: Alex and Lisa have a "friendship" on the show, and on more than a few occasions Lisa makes it clear he doesn't like Alex and his general English personality:
    • In a Task in "Magnets and Magic", he threw Alex into a pool while he was tied to a wheelchair.
    • A task in "Engineering", Lisa recreated the flag of the US, while insulting him as she made it. Her goal was apparently to make it as inedible as possible.
    • A task in "Hostage" made Lisa force feed him food through a meat grinder, an apparent revenge tactic for making Lisa do torturous tasks.
    • A task to knock over 101 ducks in "101 Ducks" made Lisa make fun of Alex's use of the word "Fell" instead of using the phrase "knock down".
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Zigzagged. Everyone calls Reggie by his name in the studio, but in the pre-recorded challenges, Reggie is referred to as "The Taskmaster" instead.
  • Expository Theme Tune: Due to the format changes, the rules of the show are explained over the main title sequence.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • In "Engineering", a task was to make a bridge for a potato to get over a pool in a miniaturized version of the house. The task specified that they could only use whatever was on the table. However, throughout the room and on the table, there were clues to "Look under the table", as that would give them the ideal supplies to complete the task. This included a boat engraved with a Spanish phrase; "Debajo de la mesa" (Underneath the Table), a sign over the door that said to look under the table, and a button that would flash a light that read that exact sentence. Dillon wasn't happy about this as he'd spotted a button earlier that told him to look under the table. Only Freddie noticed the lamp clue, though he was more thinking of using the lamp housing itself as a bridge, but discovered the note.
    • In "Hostage", a task was to free Alex from his cuffs. It took Freddie quite a while to figure out what "look at the phone" meant. Both Kate and Rob figured it out it was the phone on the painting behind them, and Freddie didn't work this out for a good couple of minutes.
      • Freddie, Kate, Lisa and Rob in the same task didn't spot Alex was holding the key the whole time. Only Dillon noticed.
    • In "101 Ducks", a task required the contestants to knock over 101 ducks perched on two walls, while standing behind a velvet rope. Kate constantly barraged the wall with balls to knock over the ducks, however she missed one duck that was perched upon a tile that she didn't knock over, and so was disqualified. Similarly, Dillon used a leaf blower in his attempt and also misses a single duck still perched on the wall, and also gets disqualified.
  • Fish out of Water: Some of the humor from this iteration comes from the fact Alex and contestant Freddie Highmore are English, and have to get used to a different way of speaking to the others.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Each episode introduces the contestants, much like the original, but unlike the original UK version, they all have their name on-screen, as well as a cheeky subtitle. For example, in "Physics", Ron Funches's subtitle was; "Ron Funches:" International Man of Mystery, where in "Ebony", it's "Ron Funches:" Funch-a-Maniac.
  • Genre Savvy: In "Hostage", a task was to free Alex from his cuffs. Upon entering the room, Dillon tries to shake Alex's hand, but Alex doesn't. After reading out the task, he questions Alex if he has the key in his hand, and Dillon immediately unlocks him, winning the task. Dillon said in the studio the reason he did his actions was because Alex didn't shake his hand, and when he refused, he suspected something was up.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: The episode titles for the show, much like the UK version, have out-of-context words and/or quotes from the episode. Since there were only eight episodes in total; "Physics"note , "Ebony"note , "Bubbles"note , "Die, Die, Die"note , "Magnets & Magic"note , "Engineering"note , "Hostage"note , and "101 Ducks"note , the list is much shorter than the UK version as this version only ever had one season.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: A task in "Bubbles" had the contestants order a pizza without using specific words (Extra, Large, Pizza, Pepperoni, Peppers, Pepper, Pineapple, Tuna, Dill), with a bonus point given to anyone for getting the person taking the order to say the word "bubbles". Ron said that he'd give the person a tip by saying "Bubbles", and flatly denies his request. Dillon tries to trick the person into completing his sentence about cheese being so hot it bubbles, and when that didn't work, he tries spelling out Bubbles, and the person pronounced it the wrong way as if it was a foreign name. Freddie asks for Alcohol in a roundabout way, Lisa tries to claim that the Pizza is for a friend, and her nickname is Bubbles, and gets the person to read out her nickname.
    • In "Engineering", a task required to create "flag food" (create food in the shape of a flag). Rob's attempt was at making the Japanese flag with cheese and a pepperoni square-circle in the middle. Rob claims he made it because he likes Japanese culture, and after the video, he says that a few reasons he wants to go to Japan for are because he likes Japanese wrestling, video games, and pornography.
  • Literal-Minded: Kate in "Engineering", as a task required her to make a "flag meal", which Alex described as a meal made into the shape of a flag. Kate went incredibly literal, and found a flag of Reggie, placed Fettuccine pasta, Lemon, Arugula, and Garlic into the shape of Reggie's hair. Alex was quite amused by this interpretation of the task.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • The stage task for "Die, Die, Die" had the contestants get as many M&M's from one bowl to another while wearing boxing gloves. However, Dillon had the idea of putting his boxing gloves on his feet instead and used his hands to move the M&M's to the other bowl Reggie allows the behavior, and awards him 5 points.
    • In "Magnets and Magic", a task was to get to a microwave in a shed within 5 minutes, while taking as few steps as possible. Both Freddie and Rob used crawling to get to the microwave, something which Reggie agreed after the video that it didn't count as steps. Kate used rolling to get to the microwave, as well as crawling. Sadly, the time ran out before Kate got to the microwave, and was disqualified.
    • In "101 Ducks", a task required the contestants to knock over 101 ducks perched on two walls, while standing behind a velvet rope. After some time of throwing balls at the ducks, Lisa realised the task never specified that she couldn't just move the rope closer to the ducks. Dillon and Rob also worked this out on their attempts and used a leaf blower and a long cleaning pool brush respectively to complete the task. For Dillon, It was all for nought, as Dillon got disqualified as there was one duck left on the wall. while Lisa came in third place and won 3 points.
  • Mistaken for Prank Call: A task in "Bubbles" had the contestants order a pizza with specific toppings, with said toppings that the contestants couldn't say to the person on the phone. Freddie didn't get very far, as the person hung up on him. He has better luck when he rings again a few moments later.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: In "Physics", a task had the contestants get a basketball through a hoop, but without using their hands or "anything that could reasonably be construed as hands". This is a permutation lifted from the UK Series, and originally was used in the series 5 episode "Dignity Intact", where similar tasks prior to that episode had people use impromptu gloves to complete their goal. The task itself is verbatim copied from that episode too.
  • On the Next: At the end of each episode (except "101 Ducks", which was the last ever episode), a montage of clips from the next episode is played.
  • Once per Episode:
    • Reggie starting the show by saying:
    Reggie: "Good evening, I'm Reggie Watts, and this is Taskmaster, and I am the Taskmaster. But wait! What does that mean?"
    • Lisa calling someone "A little bitch" at some point in the show, be it Alex, Dillon, or just out of general frustration.
    • Reggie ending each episode by saying:
    Reggie: "And Remember...Goodnight!"''
    *Cue End Credits*
  • Patriotic Fervor: Freddie parodying American culture in a task from "Magnets and Magic" that involved throwing a ball to himself.
    • After winning a task involving creating a flag in the form of food in "Engineering", Kate and the audience chant "U.S.A" repeatedly.
  • Playing with Fire: A task in "Hostage" required contestants to attach a portable camera to them, and had 10 minutes to think of something to do with the camera, and 10 minutes to actually do said thing. Rob decided to blow out ~100 candles off of a cake with a leaf blower. The amount of fire on the cake was a sight to behold, and rob admitted it was a fire hazard for his hair.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Kate Berlants' personality in a nutshell. For a task in "Physics", the contestants had to get a basketball through a hoop, but without using their hands or "anything that could reasonably be construed as hands". She used some crutches to throw the ball into the hoop on the first try, but she touched the ball when it fell off of one of the crutches. Kate gets disqualified, which she isn't happy about, and tries to fruitlessly claim that both Alex and Reggie were being sexist.
  • P.O.V. Cam / Shaky P.O.V. Cam: A task in "Hostage" required contestants to attach a portable cameras to them, and had 10 minutes to think of something to do with the camera, and 10 minutes to actually do said thing. The most incredible footage won. Dillon stuck a stick to his head and made Alex throw flamingo hoops at him to get them on the stick, Kate did a magic trick involving floating cards. Rob blew out ~100 candles off of a cake with a leafblower. Lisa force feeds Alex some food from an impromptu grinder, while tied down (apparent revenge for torturing Lisa with tasks) and Freddie took a bike ride, which lead to him riding on the house walls. Dillon got one point (he volunteered for last, which made Reggie's life easier), Ron got 2 points, Kate got 3 points, Lisa get's second place and 4 points, while Freddie wins with 5 points.
  • Prisoner's Dilemma: The stage task for "Hostage" had the contestants place in a whole number of donuts onto a stick concealed in a box. A contestant got disqualified if they had the same amount of donuts or higher on the stick as another contestant. Kate won the 5 points, with 4 donuts.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Dillon tries to bribe Reggie with a $100 bill in "Hostage" so he doesn't come last in the stage task. The bribe was not accepted, and it doesn't work, though Reggie happily kept the $100.
  • Shaped Like Itself: The subtitle for Ron Funches at the start of "Bubbles" is his name: Ron Funches - Ron Funches.
  • Silly Walk: In "Magnets and Magic", a task was to get to a microwave in a shed within 5 minutes while taking as few steps as possible.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Unlike the UK Version, it's played with, as the show ran at around 7 PM on US Television, where some curse words were censored. Not all swearing was censored, however.
  • Spoiler Opening: The title sequence for the series is made up of fast-paced clips of that series' contestants carrying out the pre-recorded tasks, while Reggie explains the concept of the show over it.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Alex Horne's basic personality, already present in the UK version, is also present here. Lisa does not like Alex because of this.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Both Lisa and Ron used a chair for the Stage task of "Ebony" as their unusual noise.
  • Studio Audience: As with the UK version, The show is presented as a theater show of sorts.
  • Tiebreaker Round: If two or more contestants are tied in first place, then a tiebreaker takes place. This only ever happened in one episode; "Die, Die, Die". It was a three-way tie between Rob, Kate, and Lisa. The task was to answer a question: For how many Sundays has the Taskmaster (Reggie, not the show itself) been alive for? Helpfully, a graphic on screen did the mathematics for each answer. Lisa wins, as her answer was closest to 2363 Sundays (45 years, 23 days)
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Taskmaster US is made by Comedy Central, and only ran for one season. There were a few key differences, and the changes to the show from the UK version include:
    • Greg Davies' role as the Taskmaster is being filled by Reggie Watts, but Alex Horne is kept as the assistant
    • The format was altered to fit within one half an hour episode. However, the show broadcast two episodes back to back on the same night, totaling six ad breaks (three ad breaks per episode), whereas in the UK, it was one episode for one hour, with three ad breaks per episode.
    • Because of the above, The prize task was downsized from a full task to one contestant per episode bringing in a belonging to serve as the prize for that episode. Also, no points are awarded for that round.
    • Despite Reggie's claims in the beginning, the tasks themselves are mostly a repeat of tasks seen in the UK series, with around 4 tasks total created for the US version.
    • The trophy is a bust of Reggie, instead of Greg.
    • Both Taskmaster Reggie Watts and Alex Horne actually contribute to the prize pool in this iteration, as well as the contestants. This happens in "Engineering" for Alex (a big lion statue), and "Hostage" for Reggie (a DL4 modeler). The final prize pool consisted of an item from each episode that was used in a task; A XL Pizza, Old Ice...which is now water, A Microwave, a Leaf blower, a basketball, a picture of Ebony the model horse, some handcuffs, and a giant rubber duck.
    • There are no team tasks in this version. The only task that was converted to the solo format was the "Free Alex from his handcuffs" task in "Hostage", which was a team task in "The Dong and the Gong".
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: A few instances:
    • Despite the task not saying they should put one on, while ordering a pizza for a task in "Bubbles", Lisa and Dillon put on fake accents, the former using some form of Indian accent, the latter using an eastern America Brooklyn-based accent.
    • In "Magnets and Magic", Lisa puts on a fake English accent while pushing Alex into a pool of water.
    • In "101 Ducks", Lisa puts on a fake English accent again, while making fun of Alex's use of the word "Fell" to refer to knocking over 101 ducks.