I, Claudius

1976 | United Kingdom

The thirteen episodes of I, Claudius were a masterpiece of costume and design, the series also boasted a high degree of historical accuracy in its intelligent and sophisticated depiction of the lives and events of its historically genuine central characters. 

Utilising author Robert Graves' own literary device of having the aged Cladius himself act as the viewers guide to the unfolding story in a series of flashbacks (which is then discovered some nineteen centuries later), is a masterstroke which affords the viewing audience the perfect road map to the never ending series of intrigues, plots, and double dealings which drive the central story from the very outset, added to which, by ensuring that it is the central character himself who acts as our guide, our sympathies and total identification with him are engaged from the first, as the series charts his reluctant eventual rise to power in a decadent and violent age. 

In a wonderful cast which boasts top flight performances from some of the leading lights of the legitimate theatre, it is Derek Jacobi's astoundingly remarkable central performance as Claudius which is the lynch-pin upon which the entire remarkable triumph of the series turns. 

When shown in the USA on PBS I, Claudius single-handedly redefined the boundaries of acceptability on American television. Despite the content of orgies, nymphomania, adultery and incest, the series was shown on all PBS stations under the banner of Masterpiece Theater. An undisputed masterpiece-I, Claudius remains as a shining example of just how ambitious, intelligent and exciting great television drama can aspire to be.

Published on December 21st, 2018. Written by SRH for Television Heaven.

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