While Taskmaster continues to grow worldwide, including in the United States, the show's first attempt at a U.S. invasion didn't catch on with audiences. Creator and co-host Alex Horne made the trip to California to film the series for Comedy Central, with The Late Late Show bandleader Reggie Watts acting as host. It lasted one season from April 27, 2018 until May 18, 2018.
Given the show's current success with American audiences and the introduction of the Taskmaster Supermax+ app, it's easy to wonder what happened. It's also no surprise the show didn't make it, given the history of U.K. exports being remade for U.S. television.
While speaking with Horne and original Taskmaster host Greg Davies, both tried to pinpoint what went wrong with this first attempt. "I think there's many factors why it didn't work, the biggest one being that we compromised on quite a few things that we maybe shouldn't have," Horne told PopCulture. "If we'd stayed true to the old program, the original, with Greg and I hosting it in the same studio at the same length, that probably would have been the sensible thing to do rather than changing it as much as we did."
Taskmaster on Comedy Central with Watts and Horne featured a slew of famous names, including comedians Lisa Lampanelli, Ron Funches, Dillon Francis and Kate Berlant, joined by The Good Doctor's Freddie Highmore in the fifth chair. Berlant walked away the winner of the solo season. While the adaptation seems to fit the mold — featuring similar tasks, a live audience and Horne's seal of approval — it still seems off. Watching it unfold in the California sun soon reveals the rhinestone qualities.
Many fans and viewers have shared similar sentiments online. Some felt the comedians were too "mean-spirited" or trying too hard to perform against just being themselves. There is also the trouble with the runtime, with the U.S. version forced into 30 minutes with ads compared to the 60-minute runtime of the original.
"I think it's a show that is a world that it's good to invite people into," Davies added. "One of the many reasons it works, I think, is because we invite them into our world and they have to play by our rules...one of the things that unites the contestants and makes them bond, I think, is the fact that they're having the same experience in our house."
The Supermax+ app isn't exactly the show's second chance at America either. The CW was handed seasons 8 and 9 of the original series, running them as part of a summer run in August 2020. Dropping fans and new viewers in the middle of a show's run, on a busy Sunday, and on a network that typically caters to DC Comics series and Riverdale. If it seems like a sour recipe, it shouldn't surprise you that the show aired on television once to low ratings before being ushered to The CW's Seed streaming library on Aug. 10.
Not every international attempt with Taskmaster has been a failure. In an interview with Chortle, Horne remarked how Sweden took the concept, ran with it, and even knocked Strictly Come Dancing from the timeslot on a competitor station. "Sweden has set the benchmark because they really have run with it...Their version is really glossy, but what I like about it is that it's so different," Horne told the outlet.0comments
Taskmaster Supermax+ looks to be a route Horne, Davies, and the rest of the minds behind the show are willing to take. The audience for the U.S. exists, and it isn't at the mercy of a TV network much these days. Streaming is a key, and breaking down international barriers is a crucial component of going "over-the-top." It also presents the bonus of being able to spread other international versions of Taskmaster around,
And while Horne and Davies were mum on the future of an American or international Taskmaster, the wheels were already turning regarding ideas. "Come the inevitable international spin ... of the next wave of the American show and the peculiar thing where we move away from comedians as we have done a few times in the UK, I would like to have Ryan Gosling on the show," Davies tells PopCulture. Hard to argue.