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What to know about British imports



Comedian Greg Davies, aka Taskmaster, and his “assistant”, aka series creator Alex Horne.
Photo: Avalon UKTV

As we sink deeper and deeper into the COVID-induced content vacuum that has anything but cleared TV slate next fall, there has never been a better time for Clients, one of Britain’s many hidden television jewels, to finally come to the United States. Although comedy panel shows are virtually a non-existent genre in the United States in A, they are a dozen a dozen on British television, but Commissioned has its own unique, indefinable brand of insanity that has kept viewers coming back in nine series, soon in ten. The show’s popularity in the UK is hardly a fluke. Since it began broadcasting in 2015, it has created international adaptations in Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Finland. However, no remake could ever hope to compare with the original, which is so successful that Channel 4 undertook six more seasons, when it acquired the show from UKTV at the end of last year.

Excludes a short-lived American remake hosted by Reggie Watts – more on that below – Commissioned has not made much of a footprint in the United States, but that will change this Sunday, when the CW begins broadcasting the show in its full British glory. If you are one of the many unhappy Americans who have not yet discovered brilliance outside the wall Commissioned, here’s the full description of what you need to know about the show before series eight and nine begin airing in America.

Although a Google search will yield mixed results (especially since the show shares its name with a Marvel comic book villain), Commissioned relies on a fairly simple premise: Five stand-up comedians use their quick clicks to complete “tasks” of varying degrees of ridiculousness in an attempt to please the Taskmaster (comedian Greg Davies) and win a golden bust in his head.

Yes and no. Greg Davies, “Taskmaster”, is a British stand-up comedian and actor, and while playing the role of Taskmaster, it is a mixture of his actual personality and a cool, demanding character that was invented for the show. At his side is the subordinate doormat of a man named Alex Horne, who acts as his assistant but also plays a role – because in fact, Horne is the director and executive producer of the show, as well as its creator.

Again, yes and no. It’s a game show in the sense that it has a group of contestants vying for a prize, but it’s not a game show because all the contestants are already famous (in the UK at least – most of them are less familiar to US audiences, who should see this as an opportunity to expand their comic horizons), and the prize is a golden bust from Taskmaster. The driving force behind the show is not competition for a cash prize, it is the strenuous and often off-kilter humor that is the result of competitors trying to complete the tasks.

Presented by Alex Horne but apparently set up by Taskmaster, the tasks vary widely in content, but always require out-of-the-box thinking and a willingness on the part of contestants to make a complete mockery of themselves. There are a few tasks that correspond from week to week: the first task of the episode is always a prize task, where a contestant takes in one of his own possessions, and the winner of the episode is allowed to take all the possessions Home.

It would be a stupid thing to try to connect the dots between the rest of the tasks, but the easiest way to explain the chaos is by giving examples. Previous assignments have included everything from orders such as “make the best sound” to “impress this mayor” to “get the best gift for Taskmaster”, the last of which was won by comedian Josh Widdicombe, who tattooed Taskmaster’s name on his leg permanently – that is so far competitors are willing to go to win what essentially boasts rights.