Your RDA of Irony

Ire Claudius

HBO, BBC2 Make Deal To Turn Robert Graves Novel ‘I, Claudius’ Into Epic Miniseries

Unfortunately, this is not a headline from 1975.  That was when “I, Claudius” was produced for television, and the series was merely a masterpiece.  The life of the Caesar family was the blackest of comedies. Sian Phillips as the Empress Livia stole the show and committed every other crime as well.  John Hurt made Caligula an endearing monster; he had a childlike wonder at all the abominations he could perpetrate.  Then, there was Derek Jacobi in the title role:  our stammering, slobbering, limping hero who uses his handicaps to pose as as a negligible fool,  masking the keen mind that sees all and narrates the sordid story. 

I have seen the series six times, so I have memorized almost the entire dialogue.  If there were ever a “Claudie” convention, I would consider going, possibly even in costume.  I do have the legs for a tunic (sorry, no illustrative photos–I am not a congressman) but for sentimental reasons, I’d probably go as Herod Agrippa.  He was charming, droll and quite likely a relative.

So what can be gained by remaking “I, Claudius”?  If HBO is worried about British actors starving, there is a time-honored way to exploit and denigrate a masterpiece.  Make a sequel!  Why not produce “Me, Nero”, the story of a repulsive teenager with delusions of talent? But for the foreskin, it could be a Judd Apatow movie.  Jonah Hill would be perfect.  And if that succeeds, there is “I, Galba”–the story of an irritating coot who becomes emperor; get Randy Quaid’s agent.  After that, there is “Us, Otho”–a badly aging playboy becomes emperor: Charlie Sheen’s comeback!  “We, Vitellius”–a fat has-been with an embarrassing toupee:  where do I start? 

And HBO: there were more than 80 Roman Emperors!  Calculating two seasons an emperor, the network has 160 years of shows.  After that, HBO can start with the Byzantines.  (By 2170, I should be finished with the Theodora script.)

  1. Michele says:

    The original “I, Claudius” was virtually flawless. Some things should not be remade. Here’s a thought: I just saw Derek Jacobi in “King Lear.” He was brilliant. Film that.

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      Sir Derek appeared in the first few episodes of “The Borgias.” He played a rival cardinal who attempted to poison the Pope. Of course, the Borgias saw to it that the goblets got switched. So, he didn’t appear in any subsequent episodes. In reality, that particular cardinal did mysteriously die while a guest in the Borgias’ dungeons, but it was near the end of the Pope’s reign.


  2. Wimple says:

    I cannot even imagine who else could fill those roles. DJ is still around – Perhaps he could play an aging Augustus?

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      Most of the cast is still around. They were young and let’s give some credit to the British healthcare system. (Patrick Stewart now can afford the American healthcare system.)

      While I am vehemently opposed to the remake, I would concede that John Hurt now would be a great choice to play Livia.


  3. Bob Kincaid says:


    I was hoping this was a gag you thought up during a lazy Chicago Sunday. It appears, however, you’re not joking. More’s the pity.

    Based upon the way history’s been treated in the Tudors and the Borgias, we’ll be lucky if the Julians don’t wind up wielding machine guns. Ack!

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      I can attest to a pair of anachronisms on “Spartacus”: breast implants in the Roman Republic. No, not Lucy Lawless, but some of the supporting cast had some supporting cast.


  4. Peg Pruitt says:

    What an abomination! I have the DVD set of the original series, and that is what I’ll be watching when this “epic miniseries” airs.

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      Save some sackcloth and ashes for me.

      If you can recall, a year ago Hollywood was considering a teen movie with Julius Caesar and Brutus. Hey, road trip to Gallia!

      Some of the proponents of “Ire Claudius” are saying that the original had shabby sets. (Who cares about brilliant script and superb performances?) So, expect to see a 3-D extravaganza–with a graphic depiction of the Teutoberg Forest–and acting as wooden.


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