Everybody who hasn’t seen I, Claudius, raise your hand. Perhaps it would be easier to ask for those who haven’t seen I, Claudius to raise their hands in disbelief that they have missed one of the best (in my opinion) miniseries EVER. My family ranks this miniseries right up there with Upstairs, Downstairs… Both shows come to us from Great Britain, but have no similarities in the content area. They do, however, have one thing in common………….. They are both phenomenal. Oh, and another thing they have in common…. if you haven’t seen them, you will probably regret it. (I have to admit that the later seasons of Upstairs, Downstairs weren’t on par with the earlier seasons….)
Of course, Derek Jacobi (before he was Sir Derek Jacobi!) is absolutely phenomenal as Claudius. (I know I am not supposed to use the same adjectives over and over, but, is there another word that describes Jacobi’s Claudius more succinctly? Brilliant, Exceptional, Fantastic, …. well, yes, then I could use those words.)
The 13-part miniseries is based on the novel by Robert Graves and the Roman Empire circa 24 BC to 54 AD is the setting. We see the action through Claudius’s narration of events. He is able to outlive many of the members of his family because they think he is a simpleton. (Did I say "many of the members of his family? I mean "ALL"!!!!!) His grandmother Livia (played by Sian Philips) makes Snow White’s stepmother look like everybody’s favorite auntie.
Claudius is forced to watch the debauchery and ambition of his family members while acting the part of a fool who isn’t aware of all the happenings and goings-on. By being able to quietly observe, almost undetected, he has become a master of what is needed to survive in the cesspool in which his family resides.
Don’t expect the special effects and all of the bells and whistles that miniseries from later years provide…. BUT….. do expect a great story with great acting! I have seen the miniseries three times, and plan on watching it again….. and again.
(Oh, and by the way, in case you haven’t already guessed…. this is not a cozy…. nor a mystery.)
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