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Watch I, Claudius


"I, Claudius" is a famous BBC series that aired in 1976 and aired in 1977 on PBS. It is based on the 1934 novel and sequel of the same name by Robert Graves. The TV version starred Derek Jacobi as the Emperor Claudius in ancient Rome. It runs for 12 episodes and features a wide variety of multigenerational characters who engage in intrigue, deceit, mayhem, crimes and insanity, among other soap opera vices.

Claudius is part of the royal line, but considered a bit of an idiot by his family due to trouble speaking, walking properly, and engaging in relationships. For his part, Claudius hides his genius as much as possible since so many relatives get killed for being too close to power, knowing too much or showing too much ambition. The series takes place between 54 A.D. and 24 B.C. with the Julio-Claudian clan suffering and causing others to suffer.

Claudius narrates the show. It is shot with several cameras and has kind of a theatrical look. There aren't crowd scenes so much as a few people milling around. Also appearing besides Jacobi is Sian Phillips as the evil Livia, Augustus' wife who was Claudius' grandmother. She stirs the pot with poison and verbal jabs. Cunning and immoral, she defines the age as she grows older and more dangerous. Brian Blessed plays Augustus and Patrick Stewart plays Sejanus. John Hurt plays Caligula. The show is sort of like "The Sopranos" set in ancient Rome with 20th Century British actors.

BBC
1 Season, 12 Episodes
September 20, 1976
Drama, History
8.9/10
Cast: Derek Jacobi, George Baker, Margaret Tyzack, Siân Phillips
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I, Claudius Full Episode Guide

  • Rome, 54 CE. Claudius marries Agrippinilla, mother of Nero and the deadliest woman in Rome. A prophecy has told him that Nero will be Rome's next ruler. Claudius knowingly seals his fate and that of his own son by naming Nero his heir.

  • Rome, 47-48 CE. While Claudius is away invading Britain, Messalina challenges a leading prostitute to a tournament of sex. She wins, scandalizing Rome, but Claudius remains in the dark. Soon after, Claudius learns that the British have made him a god.

  • Rome, 41-43 CE. Under Claudius's rule, the empire's finances are improving. His wife, Messalina bears him two children and urges him to make an alliance with Silanus, governor of Spain. An old friend warns him to trust no one.

  • Rome, 40-41 CE. Now totally mad, Caligula has turned the palace into a brothel, with gambling and orgies. His uncle Claudius serves as doorkeeper. Conspirators plot to assassinate Caligula. Later, as soldiers loot the palace, Claudius hides.

  • Rome, 37-38 CE. On his deathbed, Tiberius names Caligula heir. Caligula promises bread and circuses, and a new age of prosperity seems hopeful. Then Caligula falls into a coma, awakens, and proclaims himself a god. He fears his unborn son by his sister.

  • Rome, 30-31 CE. Sejanus has destroyed nearly all his enemies. Even Tiberius, living on Capri, is in danger. When he receives a warning letter, he wonders how to stop Sejanus. Caligula makes a suggestion, and the streets of Rome run red with blood.

  • Rome, 23-29 CE. Tiberius lives only for his perverted pleasures. Sejanus forces Claudius to marry his sister, solidifying his alliance with the imperial family. Livia, confesses her crimes to Claudius and reveals a prophecy that he will be emperor.

  • Rome, 19-20 CE. Tiberius rules Rome with help from Sejanus. When Claudius's popular brother, Germanicus, dies under mysterious circumstances, the Roman people protest. A trial in the Senate is rigged to clear the emperor's name.

  • Rome, 13-14 CE. After decades of deception, Augustus learns of Livia's plots and writes a new will naming Postumus his heir. Soon after Livia visits the keepers of the emperor's will, Augustus suffers severe stomach pains. She then sends in Sejanus.

  • Rome, 9 CE. When Livia hears that Tiberius has a new rival, Postumus, she quickly moves against him. Before he is banished, Postumus tells Claudius everything Livia. Claudius plays the fool to ensure his safety; he weds in a marriage Livia arranged.

  • Rome, 3-5 CE. With Tiberius in exile, it seems that Livia has lost--but everyone Augustus chooses to succeed him dies inexplicably. Livia forces the emperor to face the truth about his daughter. An omen hints that Claudius might be more than he appears.

  • Rome, 24-9 BCE. Nearing the end of his life and surrounded by spies, Claudius, emperor of Rome, writes his family history. It begins during the reign of Augustus, with his treacherous grandmother, Livia, scheming to advance the career of her son, Tiberius.

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