As the opening titles conclude, Sian breezes onto the stage in a colourful floral dress, waving to the cheering audience.
Sian: Thank you, thank you! Good evening! Welcome once again to Comeuppance, the popular programme where petty, petulant, perfidious professionals get plunged into our putrid pit of pungent plonk, as public punishment for peeing people off!
The present persons pound their palms in praise.
Sian: Tonight, as always, three rogues will face judgement. I, Sian Welby, will be prosecutor, judge and executioner, but you, the long-suffering public, are jury! So let’s get straight down to it and meet the contestants!
The TV licensing enforcement officer
Sian: Our returning runner-up from last week is Stacy the TV licensing enforcement officer. She’s 26 years old and comes from Bath.
Sian: So Stacy, what kind of week have you had?
Stacy: [clicking her knuckles] A very productive one – several successful prosecutions, personally instigated by me, and a dozen more court appearances scheduled for next week. The writing’s on the wall: if you watch TV, better buy a licence!
More booing from the audience.
Sian: Another great use of our courts. Lizzie the lawyer would be proud! And meanwhile – as much I hate to give our broadcasting rival a damn good kicking – the BBC has been in the news and it’s not exactly positive, is it?
Stacy: [sighs] As I explained very clearly last week, I’m not responsible for the BBC. I’m not even employed by them. It’s my job to enforce the law by making sure everyone has a TV licence.
Sian: And don’t people hate you for it! May I remind you, you came very close to getting your comeuppance last week. [Moves closer to Stacy’s cage and adopts a gentler tone] But maybe you can redeem yourself with a bit of honesty. Those detector vans – complete bluff aren’t they? Even if they worked with the old-style tube tellies – which is doubtful – they certainly can’t pick up LCD displays.
Stacy: You’re very wrong, Sian! Detector vans most certainly do work [looks directly at the camera] and they’re in your neighbourhood, so watch out!
Sian: I think you need to watch out Stacy; it could well be second time mucky for you!
Stacy shakes her head with a nervous smile.
Sian: I’m sure licence-payers and non-licence-payers alike would love to see such a thing, but whether Stacy goes in the Mucky Dip will depend on the competition. Let’s find out who she’s up against!
The high street fundraiser
Our next contestant tonight is Ivana. She’s 24, from Liverpool, and she’s been a high street fundraiser for the past year and a half.
Sian: So folks, some of you may find Ivana’s inclusion controversial, and we certainly don’t want to denigrate the good work of charities or the importance of giving. But, we’ve received more than one request that this profession be featured, and they’re not called charity muggers – or “chuggers” – for nothing. And let’s make one thing clear: these high street fundraisers are not volunteers. They’re employed by private companies, and some are even paid commission!
Ivana: Well Sian, I do apologise for having to earn a living like everyone else! And I likewise give my heartfelt apologies if people have their quest to buy designer shoes or the latest phone marred by being reminded of those less fortunate than themselves for a few minutes!
There’s profuse booing from the audience.
Sian: Dear me Ivana, that was a rather uncharitable answer! Not everyone’s buying high-end goods. These are lean economic times, and people have to think carefully about every commitment they make. They don’t want to be guilt-tripped and pressured in a public place!
Ivana: [shaking her head] Everyone can spare something, even if it’s only 50p a month.
Sian: And that brings me to my next point. In the good old days, a shopper could get away with tossing a few quid in the bucket. Nowadays you lot want to set up direct debits, you put us on all these mailing lists… an unlucky encounter in the street can cause months of hassle!
Ivana: [shrugging] If it brings in more money for charity, I’m cool with it.
Sian: No! I’m sorry Ivana, but charity isn’t an excuse to act like an arse! People are fed up being pestered to dip into their pockets, and I think they’ll enjoy dipping you into our muck!
Ivana puts her hands on her hips, wearing a disbelieving smirk.
Sian: [turning back to the camera] But satisfying though that might sound to everyone, please wait to meet villain number three before making up your minds.
Sian: And she is Karen – 31 years old from Cardiff. Karen is a nightclub bouncer of eight years’ standing.
Sian: Ah yes! This is one that touches a personal nerve. There’s been a number of times when I’ve needed to be seen in a certain high-class nightspot. All the in-people are inside quaffing cocktails. All the photographers are there taking snaps for the celeb mags. But I get stopped by some clown on the door who refuses to let me in! I mean, don’t these people know who I am?
Karen: [impassively] Probably not. I’d never heard of you before signing up to this show.
There’s a shocked intake of breath around the studio.
Sian: [flushing] Oh, that’s just typical of the attitude I encounter! No respect. Very petty too – if you don’t want to let someone in you’ve always got an excuse ready. Perhaps they’ve got the wrong colour shoelaces, or their hair’s brushed the wrong way, or you ask for ID even though the person’s old enough to draw a pension!
Karen: We don’t need excuses, Sian. If we don’t like the look of you, you’re not coming in. Simple as that. And there’s no point arguing. We’re there all night. If you want to stand there making a tit of yourself, that’s your choice.
Sian: [stamps her foot] Uuugghh!! So unreasonable!
Karen: If you think we’re unreasonable, you should see some of the drunken scum we have to deal with on a nightly basis. I’m the one who has to go into the toilet to drag some idiot from a puddle of her own puke. I’ve been sworn at, spat at, had kebabs thrown at me…
Sian: Well fear not! It’ll all pale in comparison if you go in the Mucky Dip! And speaking of bouncing, the mechanism on that thing’s very springy!
Karen continues to stand stolidly with arms folded.
Sian: [turns once more to the front] And that concludes our lurid lineup! I’m sure everyone knows how the show works by now, but I’ll outline it for its own sake. Odious occupations deserve a suitably stinky punishment, which is why tonight’s most disliked contestant will find herself dangling above our dreaded Mucky Dip!
The audience cheers as a high-angle camera sweeps across the stage. As usual for this segment of the show, the seat is parked above the rim of the giant vat, and dry-ice fog belches out.
Sian:We’ll be taking a closer look in there during the mid-way update, when we’ll also have a chat with the woman in charge of making our muck, so make sure you tune in for that. But the most important part of the show begins right now: on your screen you should see a phone number corresponding to each of the contestants. These are your numbers for voting. If one of these professions has wound you up recently, here’s your chance to get revenge! Your vote will help to put that contestant up in that chair!
Sian walks forward to the edge of the stage.
Sian: So who will receive tonight’s Comeuppance? Will it be Stacy, the TV licensing inspector who threatens you with court appearances and detector vans? Will it be Ivana, the paid fundraiser who corners you for direct debits in the street? Or will it be Karen, the nightclub bouncer who’s out to ruin your night? I know who I’d vote for, but it ain’t my call. It’s over to you.
Poll closes at 10 pm on Thursday 10th. As always with this series, repeat voting is allowed with a 12 hour gap.