I, Claudius is truly one of the great series of all time. House of Cards wishes it could dream of this level of scandal, betrayal, and scheming.
This is incredible drama, although I suppose I must say it was filmed for television in the 70’s so the production values are a little dated, although not as much as you might think. Give it an episode or two to get used to the look and sound. It’s only 12 episodes but by the end you will wish it had so many more.
You will be hooked by Derek Jacobi’s portrayal of Claudius, perceived as a halfwit because of his stutter. John Hurt is magnificent as Caligula and Siân Phillips steals the show as Livia. For you Trekkie fans, Patrick Stewart with a full head of hair is also prominently featured.
Even though this production was made in 1976 for British television, it doesn’t pull any punches. Caligula’s episodes are particularly unsettling, including one I don’t think I’ll ever forget that is as disturbing as anything I’ve seen on television.
I don’t want to say too much more, as this series is just a lot of fun to watch, especially when you don’t know what’s coming. I, Claudius is as entertaining as any series I’ve seen, which is an astonishing feat considering it was made almost 40 years ago on a sound stage with no special effects.
- Augustus by John Williams: If you like Rome even a little bit, this is essential reading
- NPR: I, David Bianculli, Highly Recommend ‘I, Claudius’
- NY Times: Imperial Rome Writ Large and Perverse
- I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith: I haven’t had a chance to read this yet but it seems well-received and worthy of mention here.