On the 23rd of March 2020 two historic addresses were made to the nation. One, by the UK Prime Minister, outlined the rules of lockdown in response to the coronavirus threat. The other, by Alex Horne, outlined the rules of Task 1 in #Hometasking, a first-class wheeze from the Taskmaster team designed to keep people cheerfully occupied and doing silly things for fun exactly when we needed it most.
The government told us not to travel, shop or socialise. Alex Horne told us to throw a piece of A4 paper into a bin… spectacularly. Most spectacular throw wins. People around the world leapt at the chance. Literally. They back-flipped. They headered. They engineered. They used pets, Skidoos and a baby on a Roomba.
That was just the beginning. Over the lockdown weeks, a further 19 hometasks followed, with entries compiled into results videos judged by the Taskmaster himself Greg Davies. The 20th and final (for now) hometask – make a big and expressive face out of things from your house – culminated in this genuinely moving video as people all over the world thanked the team for, in the words of one commenter “making this unbearable time a bit more bearable.” Even Greg Davies got emotional.
Schools had been closed, jobs were suddenly under threat, uncertainty was everywhere, but thanks to Taskmaster, the joy of silliness and collaboration made things a little easier.
With the Emmy and Bafta-nominated UK series now making its way onto US TV (starting on the 2nd of August on The CW), we asked creator and presenter Alex Horne to talk us through his TV memories…
Which TV show inspired you to start your career?
Countdown. Always Countdown. I watched it with my mum every day, won three episodes on the proper programme, appeared in a comedian’s edition in Edinburgh and have now been in dictionary corner many times with the band. It’s a dream come true.
What or who was your first TV love?
Growing up, which TV character did you most want to be?
Not Scott, weirdly. I always wanted to be Brad, I think because of the hair and the surfing. I was quite into Brad.
.…and which TV character do you most want to be now?
That’s a great question. I’ve certainly moved on from Brad. I think I’m back to wanting to be Richard Whiteley to be honest. He seemed to have a lovely time.
If you had to describe yourself as a TV character, who would it be?
In that odd scenario, I would describe myself as Barney Rubble; always the sidekick to a bigger man, and always pretty happy about it.
Which TV show has given you nightmares?
When did you last cry watching television?
It would almost certainly be watching something with the kids: Britain’s Got Talent, The News. Their company makes everything far more emotional.
When did you last laugh out loud watching television?
Genuinely – and I apologise for this – it was watching Peter Crouch Save Our Summer on Saturday. We rarely watch anything I’m in together, but they’re really into Peter and, thankfully, we all loved it.
Name an iconic TV moment for your generation
For me, it has to be Nick becoming Nasty in the first series of Big Brother. I was up at the Edinburgh Festival and television was changing forever.
What was the last TV show you recommended to a friend?
Dead To Me. I’m sometimes sceptical about Netflix – for no reason that I can put my finger on – but when you stumble upon a series and it delights you for ten nights in a row, that’s a good feeling for a week and a half and a bit.
Which TV show have you never seen that everybody keeps nagging you to watch?
It’d be all the big ones like The Sopranos. I never watched The Godfather and it seems too late now. The same happened with The Sopranos, The Wire and Peaky Blinders. I don’t know if they can be compared but they feel to me like they had a lot of male violence that I’m not massively into. I’d probably be surprised if I watched them now.
Have you ever had an argument over a TV show?
It depends if you call football matches a TV show. For me, they are for some people. They certainly can be. And you certainly can argue over them. And they are the sort of arguments that can never be won.
Which TV show would you bring back from the dead?
I would absolutely resurrect Campion. I can’t really remember anything about it but I do have a sense of our whole family watching it very happily together. Can I have that again please?
Which TV show do you wish more people would watch?
Tim Key’s Wonderdate. That should, and hopefully one day will, be a classic.
Have you ever done fancy dress as a TV character?
I nearly always wear a boring suit but I do sometimes furnish the with long dangly earrings or belly button jewellery. I also dressed up as a mystic head in a box for a comedy on BBC3 but I don’t think there’s any record of that anywhere.
Which TV theme songs do you know the words to?
The Poddington Peas, as do all my friends and family.
Which TV character would you like to beat in a fight?
No one springs to mind, but I suppose I wouldn’t mind having a wrestle with Dr Claw.
Which current TV show do you never miss an episode of?
It’s Fleabag. It has to be Fleabag.
What was the most fun you’ve had making television?
I am very lucky. It is hard work but it is not a proper job. Taskmaster has been six years of total enjoyment. Anything with The Horne Section is mucking about with friends. Even going on those weekend cookery programmes is brilliant! If you’re not having fun making TV, you’re doing something wrong (I think).
Tune into the Taskmaster YouTube channel.