I, Claudius: Everett Collection
July 02, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

”I, Claudius” is one of 10 best miniseries on DVD

CAST OF THOUSANDS Derek Jacobi (pictured), Brian Blessed, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart, George Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Margaret Tyzack, Ian Ogilvy, Patricia Quinn, Fiona Walker, James Faulkner

BREAKOUT STAR Sian Phillips as the scheming matriarch from hell, Livia

MINI-SUMMARY The stammering, limping Claudius (Jacobi) survives three generations of intrigue, murder, decadence, and extreme family dysfunction in early imperial Rome to become emperor himself.

HIGHLIGHTS The death scene of Augustus (Blessed); rebellious Sejanus (Stewart) realizes all is lost.

IMPACT This BBC adaptation of Robert Graves’ historical novels may have marked the peak of the golden era of Masterpiece Theatre (from 1971’s Upstairs Downstairs to 1981’s Brideshead Revisited). It also put the lie to the notion that British drama was stuffy and dull — not with all the poisonings, stabbings, and incest going on. Don’t forget the influence on The Sopranos, which borrowed Livia’s name for Tony’s lethal, manipulative mom.


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