The show opens with a high-heeled Sian strutting out onto the stage, smiling and waving as the audience clap and whistle.
Sian: Hello! Thank you very much! I’m Sian Welby, and it’s my pleasure to welcome you to another episode of Comeuppance, the show where the downtrodden take power and the wicked get mucky!
More cheering from the audience.
Sian: I’m sure most of you know how the show works by now, but for those unlucky enough to miss the first three episodes, here’s a quick run-through. We meet three contestants representing disliked professions, you the public vote on which makes your blood pressure surge the highest, and that person gets their just desserts in our yucky, Mucky Dip!
The camera sweeps over the rim of the tall, cylindrical vat, above which the chair is parked. Presently there’s too much dry ice mist to see what’s inside.
Sian: Oh yes, in that vat lurks the slopiest, slimiest, stinkiest punishment on all of television! It makes “I’m a Celeb” look like a weekend in a luxury spa. There’s been plenty of speculation on social media as to what exactly goes into our muck, but from the guesses I’ve read so far, you’re not even close! But whatever it is, one of our three contestants will be getting well acquainted with it! Let’s meet them.
The personal injury lawyer
Sian: Reappearing in the Comeuppance Court is last week’s runner-up Lizzie, a 27-year-old personal injury lawyer from Dundee.
Sian: Lizzie, did you hear about the personal injury lawyer who was in a traffic accident himself?
Sian: The ambulance braked suddenly!
There follows a muted snare drum sound effect and a smattering of groans.
Lizzie: [with arms folded] Ha ha. You know, I’m not at all pleased to be dragged back here again. Time is money and you’re wasting it. You’re lucky I’m not charging you to answer these questions, because my rate’s fifty pounds a question.
Sian: You charge fifty quid just for answering a question?
Lizzie: Yes. That’s a hundred you’d owe me by now.
Sian: Ok, let me try a more probing question. Last week the public showed their strong disapproval and voted you within a whisper of a comeuppance. Did this give you cause to examine your conscience?
Lizzie: Sorry, my what? I’ve heard of cross-examining a witness, but I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. By the way, that brings you up to £150.
Sian: [incredulous] Huh? How can you charge me when you didn’t even answer the question?!
Lizzie: Because I can. That’s two hundred and fifty.
Sian: Why two hundred and fifty?
Lizzie: That “huh?” was definitely a question. Three hundred!
Sian: I think we better leave it there. I’ll ask the audience a question instead: would you like to see Lizzie dunked in our foul muck?
Audience: YESSSS!!! [cheering wildly]
Lizzie snorts loudly, but there’s a quiver of her lip that she can’t quite hide.
Sian: [smiling as she turns to the camera] I’d say that’s a unanimous verdict, and no doubt you folks at home have a similar answer. But before you dial in, let’s meet the other contestants; they may be even more deserving of a comeuppance!
The TV licensing enforcement officer
Sian: Our second contestant is Stacy. She’s 26, from Bath, and she’s been a TV licensing enforcement officer for three years.
Sian: Full disclosure, Stacy: we’re a commercial broadcaster and the BBC is one of our rivals, but there’s no denying that the TV licence has come under fire in recent years. Some call it an archaic tax that feeds a bloated organisation and makes no sense in the internet era.
Stacy: [shrugs] I don’t care about the pros and cons, Sian. It’s the law to have a TV licence if you watch TV, and my job is to enforce the law. You can’t say “I think that law is silly so I’m not going to obey it”; it doesn’t work like that.
Sian: But do you have to be so heavy-handed? We’re getting tweets from viewers saying they are continually hounded by you people, even though they’ve told you a hundred times they don’t watch TV.
Stacy: Viewers, eh? Who don’t watch TV? That’s a good one! I’m going to make a note of those tweets and investigate every single one. [Looks directly into the camera] Now listen up! if you’re watching without a licence, you’d better get one before I catch you. Because believe me, catch you I will! [Jabs a finger at the camera] Yes, I’m talking to YOU!!
The audience boos.
Sian: Ooooo, scary! Well Stacy, as much we don’t condone breaking the law, there may be more temptation if you find yourself above our Mucky Dip. It’ll be compulsive viewing!
Stacy responds with a pouting smirk and a small shake of the head.
Sian: [faces forwards] But before you phone in to condemn Stacy, or indeed Lizzie, it’s only fair you meet our final contestant. Let’s bring her on!
The payday lender
Sian: The last of tonight’s contemptible contenders is Deborah. She’s 25, from North London, and she’s run a payday loans business for the last five years.
Sian: Deborah, I’ll get straight to the point. According to your website, the interest rate you charge on your loans is more than 6,000%. Six thousand percent!
Deborah: [yawns and waves a hand dismissively] That’s just an illustrative annual rate that the law forces us to publish. It doesn’t really mean anything because most of our loan periods are much shorter than a year… if the customer pays on time, of course.
Sian: But even if it were for only one day, that’s a scandalous interest rate!
Deborah: Boo hoo. If it makes you unhappy, you can always undercut me. Why don’t you lend your money to these individuals at a nice low rate? Eh? Not keen? [Looks out to the audience] What about you hypocrites? Any takers?
The audience boos back at her.
Deborah: Yeah, I hear a lot of noise, but there’s no money where those mouths are! Fact is, Sian, I lend to individuals no-one else will lend to. It’s only thanks to me, putting my dosh on the line, that they can borrow at all!
Sian: But some people really shouldn’t be racking up debt.
Deborah: [shrugs] They’re adults. I’m not their nanny. They’re responsible for their own decisions and the consequences.
Sian: I’m glad you believe that Deborah, because the consequences of losing this show are very severe, and attract more interest than one of your loans!
Deborah sticks out her tongue and waggles her head in a contemptuous fashion. Sian walks forward to address the camera.
Sian: Well you heard it all there. Three very unrepentant sinners. In an ideal world they would all get their comeuppance, but sadly there’s only space for one on that seat up there. You, the British public, must decide who fills it. Should it be Lizzie, the personal injury lawyer whose middle name is fee? Should it be Stacy, the TV licensing officer who pesters you with letters and house-calls? Or should it be Deborah, the payday lender whose interest rates are nothing short of shocking? The numbers are up on your screen. Get voting!