Taskmaster's top 10 episodes ranked: from House Queens to Mean Beans

 (Channel 4)
(Channel 4)

What started as a fairly silly, knockabout comedy gameshow at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has become an international TV juggernaut.

The 17 series of Taskmaster has just finished with an 18th on the way, and it has made national stars of its hosts and contestents, spawned seven international iterations and a live experience (which is due to hit London in September) and countless insane tasks, which range all the way from painting blindfolded to composing songs about random strangers in half an hour.

Now we have the ultimate task: ranking the show’s best episodes, once and for all. But will our list win the ultimate prize of the golden bust of presenter Greg Davies?

Series 2, Episode 1 – Fear of Failure

Arguably the most chaotic moment of the entire series, S2E1 provides moments that have yet to be beaten in Taskmaster history. This is where the show finds its footing: watching guests Katherine Ryan, Richard Osman, Jon Richardson, Doc Brown and Joe Wilkinson struggle to drag three balls and a yoga mat to the top of the hill sets things off nicely.

But the crowning glory is seeing them try and chuck a potato into a hole in the ground – the words “Potato hole!” will be seared into the brains of all viewers.

Series 7 episode 1 – The Mean Bean

First things first, this episode sees the introduction of Phil Wang’s frankly terrifying bright yellow bodysuit, in which he completes every single task. But it’s also worth sticking around to watch Rhod Gilbert bring his unique brand of chaos to the tasks, as well as dressing Alex up in a bikini. “I know its early days, but are we the stupidest yet?” James Acaster asks at one point. The answer: very possibly.

Season 8, episode 10 – Clumpy Swayey Clumsy Man

Worth watching for two reasons: one, Joe Thomas losing the plot when being asked to “completely erase” an eraser, and two, the buggy parking task at the end of the episode, in which the contestants are required to complete a series of tasks while driving an electric buggy, blindfolded. Everything that can go wrong, does.

Season 5, episode 2 – The Leprechaun or the Lesbian

A trifecta of excellent tasks. Given that all five guests are well rounded adults, who’d have expected that asking them to craft a coconut slinging machine would be so hard? There are also some one-liner gems in here. “Everybody knows lesbians like using ‘test your strength machines’”, pleads Sally Phillips at one point – followed by, “I can’t prove leprechauns don’t smear shit all over themselves…” from Greg Davies. And that’s before Aisling’s disaster trying to slice a loaf of bread without a knife.

Series 13 episode 10 – The House Queens

Season 13 has one of the best casts in the show’s history – Bridget Christie, Ardal O’Hanlon, Chris Ramsey, Judi Love and Sophie Duker – and episode 10 has some of its most deranged shenanigans. Stay until the end to catch Sophie and Bridget’s insane rap about Taskmaster, but watching Alex sitting on Judi while she’s riding a bike in the first task is also a real treat.

Season 5, episode 8 – Their Water’s So Delicious!

The frankly psychopathic series five reaches its peak in this episode, which sees Nish Kumar and Mark Watson compose a genuinely good song about a stranger named Rosalind, and the other contestants compose an awful one that aggressively negs her (“Rosalind’s a fucking nightmare!” crows Aisling Bea). Plus, the reveal that Alex Horne had secretly been making fish puns for the entire series to an unsuspecting cast in the name of a task can’t be topped.

Season 12, episode 1 – An Imbalance in the Popability

Despite being filmed during Covid (which means all the contestants are sitting depressingly far apart) the cast manage to bring the laughs. A real highlight is watching Desiree Burch fail harder at the task of popping balloons than you’d think is possible. Plus, the line “You can't sit on Father Christmas's face!" - "Oh yes you can!" is comedy gold no matter which way you swing it.

Season 8 episode 9 – ‘I’ve been a bit ill’

Another typically deranged outing from the season eight team. Iain Stirling, Lou Sanders, Joe Thomas, Paul Sinha and Sian Gibson have a wonderfully chaotic energy to them, and while watching them attempt to create edible dust is fun, by far the highlight is the task in which they’re required to create a costume in which they look and move “like one person”.

The result is a horrendous human centipede made out of binbags, which ends up rolling around helplessly on the floor as they try and complete the task. Pure gold.

Series 9 episode 10 – Think About the Spirit

The season finale has plenty of highlights, but one of the best has to be watching Ed Gamble create a video in which he wines, dines, kills and has sex with a chickpea (David Baddiel, for his part, threatens to stick it somewhere unmentionable).

That said, stick around for the task where two teams have to make a cup of tea by hand (Alex’s defeated “yes” when asked if he’s going to be tasting the horrible brew Ed, Rose Matafeo and Katy Wix are creating is priceless) or indeed the final seven-part task, in which Ed absolutely loses it.

Series 7 episode 10 – I Can Hear It Gooping

The ending of another deranged series sees the climax of Rhod Gilbert’s running gag against Greg Davies – ie photoshopping a picture of Greg in his pants onto every single thing he’s asked to bring in at the start of the ep. But that’s not the end of the Gilbert chaos: he proceeds to recreate the game space invaders with a cast of hundreds of people and then ties Alex to a armchair.