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The Masterson Inheritance


Originally broadcast from 1993, The Masterson Inheritance was an innovative and experimental idea in Radio. The concept was to produce a live 30 minute radio comedy drama programme using a cast of comedians who would build a script for the Masterson family from suggestions, words, dates, a situation and objects from the live studio audience. The audience would even have to provide the title of each episode.

As the narrator, Lee Simpson (Jim Sweeney in series three), would say each week, The Masterson Inheritance was an improvised historical saga of a family at war with itself. No script, no rehearsals, just an audience and a couple of microphones.


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The narrator would steer the course of events and introduce new characters to the dialogue. The comediennes would have to immediately come up with voices, characteristics and words for the new character.

The Masterson Inheritance was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and later repeated on BBC Radio 7. There were three series, each of six episodes and two Christmas specials. The first series focused on one time period to evolve a family historical saga of the Masterson clan (“a family at war with itself”) across the 18th and 19th Centuries. It all started in the year 1760.

The following two series flitted around different time periods and characters such as Ancient Rome, The Wild West, The Crimean War and Victorian London. Each episode was self contained and given the added title of Book One, Book Two, etc.

The regular cast members, some chosen because they were Comedy Store Players and had worked together in the past, of The Masterson Inheritance included:

  • Paul Merton
  • Caroline Quentin
  • Jim Sweeney
  • Josie Lawrence
  • Lee Simpson
  • Phelim McDermott

The Masterson Inheritance Episode Guide And Original Transmission Dates


Series One
Originally broadcast in 1993.

The Curse of the Mastersons (22 April)
The Mastersons and Johnson (29 April)
Scurvy (6 May)
The Sweat of the Mastersons (13 May)
The Tattling of the Mastersons (20 May)
The Mastersons Lose Everything (27 May)


Series Two
Originally broadcast in 1994.

Beware the Ides of Masterson (11 June)
The Quest for the Other Rabbit's Foot (18 June)
Last Word to the Mastersons (25 June)
The Jousting Mastersons (2 July)
The Gangrene of the Mastersons (9 July)
The Mastersons Go Down (16 July)


Series Three
Originally broadcast in 1995.

The Mastersons Magical Marquee - Part 1 (24 June)
The Mastersons Magical Marquee - Part 2 (1 July)
Masterson Rides Again (8 July)
The Masterson Bunch (15 July)
The Pain of the Mastersons (22 July)
The St. Valentine's Day Masterson (29 July)


The Masterson Inheritance Christmas Specials


1993 The Stuffing of the Mastersons (25 December)
1995 The Mastersons' Christmas Cracker (25 December)


The Masterson Inheritance has never been released on CD or talking book but you can listen to The Masterson Inheritance programme via the BBC7 website where the programme is often repeated.


The Lawrence Sweeney Mix


On Tuesday 27 February 2007 from 2300 - 2330 hours stars of The Masterson Inheritance, Josie Lawrence and Jim Sweeney, broadcast a new weekly live and improvised sketch show to BBC Radio 4. Members of the audience would give them a topic and they would perform a live comedy sketch based around the topic. Topics included The Mad Organist, Blue Jumper, Expedition To The Moon, A Reunion Of The Boy Scouts, An Affectation, A Lesson In Origami, Do Not Mention The Man Under The Bed In Any Circumstance, A Promise Of You'll Love Me Forever, a Eureka Moment of a First Flight, a Favour For a Friend of Feeding the Cat, He Thinks I'm Embarrassed But She Things She Is Having A Hot Flush, She Thinks He Is German, Something You Find In The Attic - An Evil Twin, a Favourite Piece of Clothing - Cufflinks, Too Much Botox, She Thinks She Is Always Right But he Thinks The Football Is Nearly On and The Universe. The radio show was called The Lawrence Sweeney Mix.


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