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Writing Group: Sweet Shop Sitcom Brainstorm

The following are the results of a brainstorm regarding the creation of a sitcom centred round a sweet shop, or newsagent.

Large family

When this family arrives in the shop there's no room for anyone else. One mum and lots of silent children, who seem unaffected by being in a sweet shop. Or are they TOO affected?

There would have to be at least six children, the eldest being a replacement parent, a teenager looking after his younger sibling. Mum is laid-back but dad is always harassed. They go everywhere and do everything together. The size of the family means it is difficult for them to find work or do all that much. They do love their kids but the mum takes things easy while the dad constantly panics about everything. Perhaps he is always telling the kids to stop touching things, and the mum says to leave them to it, thus causing family conflict as well as conflict within the shop. Perhaps the youngest child is a walking infant, so always toppling into things. However, that might make things too complex, so it would probably be better to make the kids a little older. Would be funny if there were, say, six children, all looking similar with only a year between each of them.

Perhaps amongst them there might be: elements of the parental child, the wild child, the shy child, the reckless child, the practical joker, the animal lover who adores 'Barbara Cartland's dog, the greedy kid, the child who distances themselves from their embarrassing family, the mummy's favourite and the daddy's favourite, the confidante, the fashion victim, the geek, the extreme extrovert etc.

Lollipop man

Grumpy old git of a lollipop man. Kids hate him. He hates kids. Comes into the sweet shop for aniseed balls and hates the fact that kids are always there. Wants to use his sweets as ammo to fire at the kids with a catapult. Can't imagine a worse crossing patrol!

Yet, he's quite friendly with the shop owner. Perhaps they went to school together or have known each other a very long time. At any rate, he is tolerated in this shop because of the relationship. I imagine this man being quite small and lightly built, with perhaps a little moustache and a balding or bald head. He is retired. What did he do before retirement? Probably something with kids - maybe a teacher at a high school, perhaps of something like history. He might be one of those men who always finds himself surrounded with kids, but can't stand them and is always a bit freaked out by them. He doesn't understand why they are scruffy, why they have no discipline, why they talk loudly, etc. I imagine that he is a man who would have preferred life with a different career, say as a factory foreman.

What does he do with his time when not lollipop-ing? Would be funny if his hobby was making intricate military models from ice lolly sticks. Two entirely unconnected lollipops! Perhaps he roots around in the sweety shop bins for extra lolly sticks in the summer months.

He has quite a 'straight' name, like perhaps Gerald or Arnold. He's old for his age. What does he like to buy from the shop? It changes every time, though aniseed balls are his staple - he always has aniseed balls alongside everything and anything else he chooses.

Has he ever been married? Yes, and he still is. Does he talk about his wife with affection? Yes he does - it's, in many ways, the only humanity he displays! She is his age, round and homely, though we probably don't see her, he does refer to her with affection – ‘a saint’, ‘my wonderful Phyllis’, etc. He regularly buys her boxes of chocolates and all the new sweets that come along. If she likes them then he'll try them himself. Perhaps he's a man who hasn't really grown up, owing to him being a little mothered by his wife?

He knows he's a grumpy old git though there's more to him than just that. Does he try to change this? No he doesn't. He embraces, and quite enjoys his personality. He is satisfied with his lot.

Sinister girl

A strange and quiet little girl, like Wednesday Addams, or perhaps one of the sinister twins from ‘A League of Gentlemen’. She doesn't really like sweets but she is always hungry and will eat anything. Also, she comes to the shop to 'socialise'. Let's call her Abigail. I love that name as it is quite quirky and can fit a person of many ages.

Abigail is pale with dark pigtail plaits (or is that too Wednesday Addams?). Certainly she is dark haired and pale skinned. She looks unhealthy, sneaky, yet also innocent in a way that you couldn't possibly think much bad about her.

Do we know anything about her family? I don't think so. She is always in the shop on her own because she is allowed to wander the streets at far too young an age - about 7 years old. She is neither sweet nor nasty, though it should be easy to see why her parents might want her out of the way as there is something about her that makes people uneasy.

Perhaps she comes from a different part of the world, to further emphasise her 'otherness'? If the shop is in Lancashire, perhaps she could be Eastern European and struggle to speak the language, or be from elsewhere in the country and occasionally struggle with the Northern dialect.

She doesn't speak much, but when she does, she is like a little professor and says the oddest of things. Perhaps she always talks about the weather, or what she might see through windows. It will be another part of her social life, to look into other peoples' windows.

If she's wandering round all day and much of the night on her own then it would be interesting to work out why. Are her parents always working? At home and want her gone? Is there a big family or just her? Is she a latchkey kid?

She frequently comes into the shop inadequately dressed, cold, wet and pathetic. She is a subject of pity, therefore, but not of affection. There's a constant running argument about whether she should be reported as a subject of neglect, but her creepiness always puts people into a less sympathetic state of mind.

She seems friendless, but is she friendless? Is she happy? She wears a school uniform but seems to have no school friends.

It is suspected that she shoplifts and something comedic could be done with trying to catch her, as an excuse for summoning her parents and getting the authorities involved. Does this ever happen? What is she suspected of stealing?

Other characters

Middle class health conscious mum - Only allows her child a single treat per week, and only if it satisfies certain criteria - needs to be over a certain percentage of fruit and under a certain percentage of sugar, for example. The shopkeeper sneaks the kid fizzy high-sugar snacks and chocolate coated sugar behind his mother's back. Mum insists on liquorice as it has healing properties. Coltsfoot stops a cough. Kid prefers the chocolate coated sugar.

Three teenage lads on way home from/way to school. Choose the same thing every time. Shop keeper lays their orders out ready. All they do is talk about computer games and fantasy role play games - they never exchange words with shop keeper, but they are otherwise polite. Leading to...

Mark - a man or woman who appears in each episode, perhaps more than once an episode. Comes in, takes chocolate bar etc from the display, pays, and never speaks. Perhaps as a bonus may occasionally be encouraged to talk/whisper instructions to get bonbons or something else from a jar!

Lone kid who is far too young to be going to the shop and crossing a big road on her own - the shop keeper frets about this tiny, scruffy kid whose parents are never seen.

Theatrical school round the corner. Creepy clowns and mimes, actors, luvvies, and bulimic dancers who snigger over their treats...

Locals from surrounding shops - the launderette, chemist, butcher etc. Pop in on their way to and from work and share stories of their working days.

Alice from the chemist. In her 20s, and always talking about things nobody else wants to hear. Sex, parties, alcohol fuelled nights. She is very obviously an embarrassment to all around her.

Elderly couple who have been together forever and are absolutely devoted to each other. Buy one bag of boiled sweets to share each week. Reminds them of rationing as a child. Salt of the earth, grateful, loving, giving, but might they have a darker side or an unexpected event? Might they have a Wonka bar golden ticket type promotion and one of the couple finds money in the gutter, and buys a bar of chocolate, as happens on ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. It might all go wrong... or it might all go right.

A perpetual surrogate mum who just loves being pregnant and who gets interesting cravings. Cough sweets and salmon, that kind of thing. We see her at various stages of pregnancy but we never see the babies.

A really, friendly and jolly goth couple. They look dark and menacing but they are darlings - they work with disabled kids and always put money in the charity box. Their appearance is at odd with their personalities. Unlike...

The tired and stressed single mum who is always wanting sweets to calm her pushchair age baby, and gives the child Coke with a straw, to the shop keeper's disgust. He keeps trying to tell her she'll rot the baby's teeth but she's too tired and miserable to care. She tries her best but struggles with parenting - her head remains in the project manager job she left behind.

The lovey-dovey couple who can't keep their hands off each other - in a loving, rather than sexual, way. Annoying baby talk. They feed each other sweets.

40-50 year old bloke - very sporty. ‘A Mars a Day Helps You Work Rest and Play’ is his motto. Cycles, plays football etc, so we always see him in a lot of different sporting clothes.

Rather large lady whose cats follow her to the shop and waits outside. Or might she maybe have a ferret on a lead that she ties up outside the shop. She has an eating problem but can't/won't admit it. Buys sweets and chocolate pretending it is for her family but the shop keeper knows she lives alone. He goes along with her fantasy.

An unpleasant child - perhaps a bully - who is almost universally disliked. He has really bad attitude and is forever being thrown out of the shop only to come straight back in. Only 11 but looks about 15.

Two teenaged girls who dress the same, have the same hair cut, the same school bag etc. One is clearly the leader. Giggly. Irritating. Watching their weight. What would they buy? Sherbet dust because it doesn't fill you up so doesn't put weight on you.

Solid, respectable family. Two parents, two children. All come in together. Dad is controlling and bossy, deciding what everyone in the family is to be treated to. The rest are compliant, smart, tidy, quiet and controlled.

A small group or couple from a hippy commune in the town. Or from a religious cult. Perhaps they evangelise to try and get others involved? Perhaps they are the only cult members allowed out or perhaps they sneak out. Are they devout? Do they believe? Do they want to leave or are they happy? Are they brainwashed? What do they buy?

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