SIGNOR PIRELLI'S DATING GAME

A/N: Hey guys, back with another crazy idea for you weekend amusement! This time, it's an alternate Sweenett universe where Mrs Lovett never met Mr T, went bankrupt and had to move in with Mrs Mooney. It seems she's destined for spinsterhood…until she signs up for a chance for love on Signor Pirelli's Dating Game Show! And yes, I am aware TV was not invented in the 18/19thc. Relax people, it's a bit of good old-fashioned fluff! =D

Mrs Lovett was sitting at home with Mrs Mooney, skinning their cats for dinner. No, they weren't past-it, has-been lesbian spinsters. But they were spinsters, and they were skinning a cat by themselves at 9 o' clock on a Friday night, so evidently, they had a few unresolved personal issues. Mrs Mooney, for example, liked to torture Mrs Lovett. Ever since Mrs Lovett became a widow and her pie-shop went broke, she had moved in with Mrs Mooney across the road. The only way to earn her keep was to complete all the nasty, sordid chores that Mrs Mooney couldn't stand. Such as cleaning out the chamber pots, skinning the stray cats and cooking the darned filthy pussy-cat pies.

It would be an understatement to say that Mrs Lovett hated her work. But she had no choice.

"Are ye done with tha' scrawny cat?" Mrs Mooney shrieked from the living room. She had her feet spread across two grubby settees, and half a bottle of gin in her hand. The TV, a small box set, was perched atop a stool with a dodgy leg.

Mrs Lovett shrieked back: "Five minutes more you bleedin' ungrateful toe rag!" She was in the kitchen, skinning a ginger tabby cat, but she could still hear the TV.

"It's that time of the week again," came the voice of the most watched TV show on Fleet Street, "sì, it's your favorito show, by your favorito man, Signor Pirelli's Dating Game!"

A loud cheer erupted from the TV audience, and Mrs Lovett finished up the last of her preparations. She cleaved off the pussy's head, and dumped the rest of it, bones and all, into the boiling pot on the stove. Then she rushed into the living room.

"Blimey," Mrs Lovett sighed, "I'd love to go on tha' show. If only I could snag me a gorg'us, respe'able gen'lemun."

"Dun forget rich!" Mrs Mooney added. "An' 'e's got ta 'ave a fat gut. Tha's 'ow yer tell 'e's rich."

Mrs Lovett frowned. "I already married Albert – rest 'is soul – though 'e was ugly as sin. So if you're expectin' me to go thru tha' again, changin' 'is bed sheets an' fixin' 'is suppa, I'd ratha die a widow. Na, wot I want is a love tha' burns like fire. Th' sort tha' makes you weak thinkin' on it. On 'im that you pine for."

A sudden image popped in Mrs Lovett's head. She didn't know why, but Mrs Lovett thought about the man she'd seen around Fleet Street the past few weeks, the one they called the Barber. She hadn't yet gotten close enough for a proper study, but the brief snatches she'd caught of his handsome figure wandering up and down the street in the early mornings had attracted her to him. "Not tha' it'll e'er 'appen," she said miserably to herself.

"Cheer up dearie," Mrs Mooney said, taking another swig from the gin. "When yer married ter a rich man ye won't 'ave no more chores. You'd 'ave maids to do tha' for ye. In a fairy world," she added, snorting.

Mrs Lovett rolled her eyes. "You missed the point, love."

"Sshh! The show's on!"

The two women fell into complete silence as Signor Pirelli, the handsome, Italian game show host, smiled and gave a delicate bow. Toby, his charming, blond kid side-kick, ran up and down the length of the stage, pumping up the audience to a state of frenzy.

"Toniiiight," Signor Pirelli began, "we have a some bellissimos signores for tonight's lady to choose from! Come, please, Miss Bachelorette!"

A spotlight appeared on stage, waiting for the woman to appear. The audience held their breath, eager and hungry. They waited. Mrs Lovett and Mrs Mooney clutched at the gin bottle. But a minute passed in awkward silence, then another minute.

After three minutes of uncomfortable silence, Toby ran up to Signor Pirelli and whispered in his ear. Signor Pirelli straightened, and with an undeniable grimace, said: "Please a forgive a me my bello audience, but it a seems that ah toniiight's a bachelorette has, how does one say, "done a runner". We are going now to an a commercial, and then, we will have a new sad, desperate – ah, that is, a new, bellissima bachelorette!"

Toby ran back to Pirelli, and whispered in his ear yet again.

Pirelli straightened, and resumed his place by the host stand. There were cracks in his smile. "Ah…it appears, we are a going to try a something a little bit different this time. But do not be alarmed! There will be a bachelorette! Any sad, lonely, spinsters – I mean, lovely signorinas out there in need of a considerate gentleman – please call this number on your screen! If you are a successful in answering the questions we ask you, we will pick you up immediately from your house and take you directly to my estudio. Thrilling, no? So please, call now!"

The moment Signor Pirelli's show went to a break, a sudden hissing came from the kitchen. "Oh me lord! The cat!" Mrs Lovett dashed into the kitchen. There was smoke everywhere, and the pot was aflame!

"Stitches and witches!" Mrs Mooney cursed and knocked the gin bottle over in her effort to go after Mrs Lovett.

It took the two of them to put out the flames, and by the time they had finished the kitchen was quite black, and the cat ruined.

"Tha' does it Mrs Lovett," Mrs Mooney said, pointing a finger at Mrs Lovett's weary face, "I want yer on tha' show this minute! Who knows, if yer snag a rich gentlemun, you'll be outta my sight for good!"

It took altogether five minutes for Mrs Lovett to call Signor Pirelli's Dating Show, and answer three key questions, which were as follows: (Note: Mrs Lovett's answers are in bold)

How old are you?

a) 15-25

b) 25-39

c) Old as the Hills

When was the last time you had intimate relations with a man?

a) Twice last night, once this morning.

b) Last week. Every Thursday is the tradition.

c) Does intimate relations mean having a polite, non-sexual conversation with a member of the opposite sex?

What's your idea of a good, decent gentleman?

a) He must earn above 500 000 pounds. Minimum. Mr Darcy is my model.

b) He must be hard-working, maybe a coal miner. But not one of the seven dwarfs.

c) Decent? He could be Jack the Ripper for all I care!

"Thank you for participating in Signor Pirelli's Dating Game," the telephone operator said, "please wait while we process your results."

Mrs Lovett bit her nails while they played some irritating classical music over the phone.

A minute later, Mrs Lovett nearly fainted. "Signorina Lovett," said Signor Pirelli himself, "you – are – the – wiiiinnner!"

Mrs Mooney stared, google-eyed with jealousy. She never once believed Mrs Lovett was the most desperate bachelorette in London City!

"Signorina Lovett, are you a still with us?" Pirelli spoke seductively into the phone.

"Yes," Mrs Lovett replied breathlessly. She was staring at the TV, phone cradled in her arm. And there was the famous Pirelli himself, standing by the host stand with his phone, talking to her on live TV!

"If you are ready in five minutes, you will find a coach outside your house waiting to escort you to my wonderful show. And there you will meet our three, desperate – ah, wonderful bachelors!"

Mrs Lovett dropped the phone, and ran to the mirror. Burn marks, stain marks, dried dough and flour were caked in her hair, on her clothes and skin.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

"Blimey!" Mrs Lovett threw it open.

The chauffer sniffed. "This way, Madam. And don't worry about your appearance. Hair and make-up are waiting inside the coach to prepare you."

Could it be true, Mrs Lovett almost sung out loud, could she really be going to meet the man of her dreams?

* * *

Read on to meet the bachelors! In case you were wondering, toe-rag was a word they really did use! Its Cockney rhyming slang for "slag."