I, Claudius (TV series)

I, Claudius (TV series)

infobox television
show_name = I, Claudius

caption = Opening titles
format = Period drama
runtime = 50+ minutes per ep
creator = Robert Graves
writer = Jack Pulman
starring = Derek Jacobi
Siân Phillips
Brian Blessed
John Hurt
country = United Kingdom
network = BBC1
first_aired = 20 September 1976
last_aired = 6 December 1976 (subsequently repeated)
num_episodes = 13|

"I, Claudius" is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves's "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God". Written by Jack Pulman [In Pulman's script for Claudius's speech to the senate in the final episode, Claudius prophesies that "the man who dwells by the pool shall open graves, and the dead shall live again". This is a reference to the scriptwriter, Jack "Pul"man, and a pun on the book's author, Robert "Graves".] , it proved one of the corporation's most successful drama serials of all time. It also provided popular initial exposure for several actors who would eventually become well known like Derek Jacobi, Siân Phillips, Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies and John Hurt.


"I, Claudius" follows the history of Rome, narrated by the elderly Claudius, from the death of Marcellus in the first episode to Claudius's own death in the last. The series opens with Augustus, the emperor of Rome, attempting to find an heir, and his wife Livia's plots to have her own son become emperor. This plotting and double-crossing continue for many years, through the conspiracy of Sejanus, the rule of the emperor Caligula, and eventually, Claudius's own rule.


The series was produced by Joan Sullivan and Martin Lisemore, and directed by Herbert Wise in the studios at BBC Television Centre. Production was delayed because of complex negotiations between the BBC and the copyright holders of the aborted film version. This did however give the scriptwriter Jack Pulman more time to fine-tune his script.


Wilfred Josephs provided the title music. The incidental music for each episode was performed by David Wulstan and the Clerkes of Oxford ensemble.

Awards and reception

Among other awards, the series won three BAFTAs in 1977 (Derek Jacobi, Best Actor (TV); Siân Phillips, Best Actress (TV); Tim Harvey, Best Design (TV)).

The series was subsequently broadcast in the United States as part of PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre" series, where it received critical acclaim. Tim Harvey won a 1978 Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction. The producers and director were nominated but did not win. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, "I, Claudius" was placed 12th.


The major cast included{| class="wikitable"
-! Actor! Character
align=center|Simon MacCorkindale
align=center|Sheila Ruskin
align=center|Angela Morant
align=center|Graham Seed
align=center|Jo Rowbottom
align=center|Sam Dastor
align=center|Kevin Stoney
align=center|Freda Dowie
align=center|Caesonia & Sibyl
align=center|Irene Hamilton
align=center|Darien Angadi
align=center|Peter Bowles
align=center|Norman Eshley
align=center|John Bennett
align=center|Patsy Byrne
align=center|Douglas Melbourne
align=center|Karin Foley
align=center|Earl Rhodes
align=center|Richard Hunter
align=center|Drusus Caesar
align=center|Russell Lewis
align=center|Young Lucius
align=center|Robert Morgan
align=center|Young Caligula
align=center|Cheryl Johnson
align=center|Claudia Octavia
align=center|Isabel Dean
align=center|Lollia Paulina
align=center|Liane Aukin
align=center|Moira Redmond
align=center|Bernard Hill


In the following decade, the large-scale historical dramas "The Borgias" and "The Cleopatras" were produced by the BBC in an attempt to imitate "I, Claudius"'s success, but both these proved to be flops. The idea of large-scale historical drama thus came to be satirised in comedy of the time, most notably "Blackadder" (for example, the writhing snake from the "I, Claudius" title sequence is parodied in the title sequence of "Blackadder II"). Such dramas did not become a BBC staple again until the series "Rome", which (due to its similarly Roman subject matter and ambitious scale) was openly touted in the press as a successor to "I, Claudius" [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/3216925.stm|title=Epic Roman drama unveiled|date=27 October 2003|accessdate=2008-02-12|publisher=BBC News] .


Most VHS and DVD versions of the TV series include the 1965 BBC documentary "The Epic That Never Was", about the attempted Alexander Korda film adaptation of the first book, featuring interviews with key production staff and actors as well as most of the surviving footage. The 2002 UK DVD edition also contains a documentary on the series, "I, Claudius – a Television Epic", as well as some alternate and deleted scenes.


External links

*imdb title|id=0074006|title=I, Claudius
* [http://www.anselm.edu/internet/classics/I%2CCLAUDIUS/ I, Claudius Project (concentrates on the BBC production)]
* [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/I/htmlI/iclaudius/iclaudius.htm Encyclopedia of Television]
* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/486292/index.html British Film Institute Screen Online (TV series)]
* [http://www.historyinfilm.com/claudius/index.htm History in Film - episode guide]

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