The show opens with Sian Welby strolling out onto the stage in the warehouse studio, waving to the keenly cheering audience.
Sian: Thank you, you’re too kind! Good evening everyone! You’re watching Comeuppance, with me, your host, Sian Welby! Let me tell you, we’ve been blown away by the level of media coverage we’ve received. WhatsOnTV describes the show as “Dick and Dom meets the Cook Report”, the Spectator calls it “the guiltiest of pleasures”, and historian David Starkey hails it as “the return of the ducking stool”. However, Guardian columnist Miles X. Navilla has condemned the show as “mindless populism”. Well folks, are you ready for some mindless populism?
Sian: Excellent! [Rubs hands together] For those who haven’t watched before, here’s the set-up. We will meet three contestants who work in unpopular professions, and you the public will vote on which of them irritates, exasperates and infuriates you the most. At the end of the show, the contestant with the most votes will get their comeuppance, by means of public humiliation in our Mucky Dip!
The camera pans across the giant, cylindrical vat that takes pride of place in the centre of the stage. The austere wire-mesh chair hangs above it, making clear its purpose. Dry ice mist froths out of the top.
Sian: It’s a bit lively at the moment but we’ll take a look inside when it settles down. So far we’ve seen a telesales operator and a budget airline check-in clerk receive their slimy dues in there; who will it be tonight? Let’s meet the contestants!
The estate agent
Sian: Our first contestant tonight is Victoria, the runner-up from last week’s show. You may remember that she’s a 30-year-old estate agent from Guildford.
Sian: Victoria, how’s your week been since we last met?
Victoria: Well Sian, I’ve had a lovely week meeting lots of wonderful people.
Subtitles appear on the screen as Victoria speaks.
I've had a rotten time mixing with a load of godawful tossers
Victoria: The highlight of the week was helping an elderly couple downsize to a compact bungalow.
At long last, I palmed off that pokey squat to a pair of old duffers
Victoria: It was a difficult decision for them to make…
The old fools dithered about and really tried my patience
Victoria: …but I was able to assure them…
But I cajouled them into buying
Victoria: …that the neighbourhood had all the amenities they needed.
Nice and close to the graveyard
Victoria: I also helped a commuter couple and their delightful children…
Obnoxious yuppies and their spoilt little brats
Victoria: …find a charming and historical town house…
A dilapidated old shack in a traffic-plagued street
Victoria: …with listed status.
Good luck getting planning permission to modernise, suckers!
The audience boos and hisses.
Victoria: [holding out hands] What!? What did I say?
Sian: [tittering] We provided a translation of your estate agent speak! Now Victoria, I’m sure you don’t need reminding, we have a hot property – or should I say, cold property – of our own, and the public might be very keen to help you move in!
Victoria pouts and furrows her brow.
Sian: [turns to camera] Victoria escaped last time, but will she do it again? It all depends whether her fellow contestants are even more heinous than her! Let’s meet them.
The personal injury lawyer
Sian: Contestant number two is Lizzie. She’s 27, from Dundee, and for six years she’s been a personal injury lawyer.
Sian: Lizzie, we see your tacky adverts on daytime TV. We hear you referred to as “ambulance chasers” in the press. You lot really have dragged the legal profession to new lows, haven’t you?
Lizzie: [sourly] Funnily enough, throughout my career I don’t recall ever chasing an ambulance. What I do do is help people with devastating injuries get the compensation they need and deserve, and I hold those responsible – often huge corporations – to account. Standing up for the little guy against the big guy – what could be more noble than that?
Sian: If only it were like that. The truth is that you injury lawyers clog up courts with frivolous cases of people tripping over, and at the same time you fleece accident victims by taking most of their payout for yourselves!
The audience boos.
Lizzie: You’re exaggerating Sian. Obviously there are expenses that need to be deducted: court fees, representation fees, consultation fees, administration fees, fees for phone calls, fees for writing letters, miscellaneous charges, commission… you can see how the costs add up and eat into the payout. That’s why injury victims need someone like me to secure the biggest payout possible!
Sian: So you can put it in your own pocket! Well Lizzie, you could be suffering a mishap in our Mucky Dip tonight, only it won’t be no accident!
Lizzie snorts and folds her arms.
Sian: [faces the camera] I’m sure many of you are itching to dial in and file your claim against Lizzie, but first let’s meet our final contestant.
Sian: Completing tonight’s terrible trio is Meera. She’s 26, from Leicester, and she’s a recently-qualified dentist.
Sian: Now Meera, dentistry may be more respectable than, ahem [looks around], some of the professions featured on this show, but no sane person looks forward to visiting the dentist. Not only is it a thoroughly unpleasant experience – having someone poke, scrape and drill inside your mouth – but you pay an arm and leg for the privilege!
Meera: [Shrugging with a sweet smile] What choice have you got when the alternative is excruciating toothache? Most of my patients try to put off coming to see me, but once they’ve suffered a week or two of incessant agony, they invariably come crawling with their mouths and wallets wide open!
The audience boos and hisses.
Sian: The relish with which you speak disturbs me, Meera. Do you get some kind of sadistic thrill from your patients’ discomfort?
Meera: [guiltily] Not at all, Sian! In fact, I always try to put my patients at ease with a bit of light humour.
Sian: Such as?
Meera: For example, once they’re reclined in the chair, I get out a huge workman’s drill – you know, just for show. The patients never find it as funny as I do, for some reason…
Sian: [edges away from Meera] Well Meera, the joke could be on you tonight, because we have a big, rotten cavity that you will not enjoy filling!
Meera responds with a shy grin and a shake of the head.
Sian: [stands in front of the cages and face forwards] So those are our three villains. Each has a case to answer, but alas not all can be punished. At least one of the women behind me will go home clean, dry and oh so smug, taking one of our coveted Jammy Dodger trophies with her. And for tonight at least, only one will find herself dangling in that chair above the dreaded Mucky Dip! Will it be Victoria, the estate agent who fobs you off with her double Dutch? Will it be Lizzie, the personal injury lawyer who cons you out of your compo? Or will it be Meera, the dentist who takes pleasure in your pain? The decision is yours to make; get voting!
Poll will close at 10 pm on Tuesday 19th Jan. As with previous polls in this series, you can vote multiple times, with a 12 hour gap between votes.