Taskmaster Australia S2, Ten, review: polished to a high sheen

The second season of the comedy game show stays fresh and works well, even if everyone on it has been funnier elsewhere.
Taskmaster Australia Season 2 promo. Image: 10

For a country packed with comedians, Australia doesn’t seem all that keen to make comedies. Instead, what we get on our televisions are formats that aren’t exactly funny, but do feature a lot of comedians trying to get laughs. Sometimes the format lets them run with things: Have You Been Paying Attention? is barely a quiz show because it’s discarded pretty much everything that doesn’t let the cast be funny. And sometimes the format itself takes centre stage, which brings us to Taskmaster.

Based on the successful and long-running UK format (New Zealand also got in on the act a few years ago), the idea for Taskmaster is simple. Five comedians are given a series of weird and hopefully amusing tasks by a stern and ruthless Taskmaster – in Australia’s case, Tom Gleeson – and his subdued sidekick (here played by ‘lesser Tom’, Tom Cashman).

Sometimes the tasks are practical, such as ‘build a scarecrow’; other times they’re more conceptual, like ‘make chess cool’. Comedians, being the type to come at a problem from a weird angle, often overthink things. Sometimes this can be to their advantage. Other times, it turns out there’s more to the task than initially revealed and trying to be funny has ensured their defeat (which can also be funny). There’s also a fair amount of sitting around chatting before and after the tasks, which makes this, at times, closer to a panel chat show than a collection of wacky stunts.

With so much going on, there’s not a lot of flab in the format. Tasks can be ruthlessly edited down to just the highlights, which keeps things moving forward and cuts down on what’s often the biggest problem with this kind of show – watching the same thing being done over and over again.

The current cast is a strong one, which possibly explains why Ten has chosen to air this season, which is technically the third, ahead of a previously filmed second season (it will air after this one). Josh Thomas is antagonistic straight out the gate; Wil Anderson isn’t exactly the elder statesman, but he does have to cop a number of jokes about his antiquated pop culture references. Jenny Tian brings some youthful energy to proceedings, especially when it comes to an end-of-episode dance-off.

There’s also Anne Edmonds and Lloyd Langford, the first ever married couple to appear on Taskmaster. The first episode doesn’t make much use of that dynamic, though Anderson gets some mileage out of jokes suggesting he’s the real father of their child.

Read: Top Gear Australia on Paramount+ review: high-end hooning

But it’s the tasks that are the star here. This is a show (much like Australia’s own Thank God You’re Here) where the format does most of the heavy lifting; once you’re wearing a helmet with a stuffed seagull on the top, that’s the comedy side of the task largely sorted. Which means if you’re a fan of any of the cast, this can feel like a bit of a waste of their talents. What’s funnier: Wil Anderson doing stand-up, or pointing a fan at a chess board?

Tom Gleeson is also surprisingly subdued here. His trademark snark is still on display, but it doesn’t quite have the punch you’d expect – possibly because, unlike on Hard Quiz, the people he’s dealing with are just as quick with their responses.

Despite its reputation for being wild and crazy television, Taskmaster is a safe bet. The format is polished to a high sheen: tasks don’t drag on, surprise twists keep things fresh, and the mix of stunts and banter means the cast can get laughs whatever their strengths. But no matter how weird or wacky someone takes a task – and this is a show where, at one stage, Edmonds turns in a commercial where she plays ‘The Queen of Hearts and also the Queen of Real Estate’ – things can only go so far.

It’s a funny show, with a lot of great moments. But everyone on it has been funnier elsewhere.

Taskmaster Season 2 is available on Ten, weekly at 7:30pm Thursdays.


4 out of 5 stars

Taskmaster Australia S2


Tom Gleeson, Wil Anderson, Anne Edmonds , Lloyd Langford, Tom Cashman, Josh Thomas, Jenny Tian


Format: TV Series

Country: Australia

Release: 23 May 2024

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.