I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Among many other productions and adaptations, Gravess Claudius novels have also adapted for BBC Radio 4 broadcast. I, Claudius follows the history of the early Roman Empire, narrated by the elderly Emperor Claudius, from the year 24 BC to his death in AD54. The series opens with Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, attempting to find an heir, an expert poisoner, Livia uses the covert assassination and betrayal of all rivals to achieve her aims, beginning with the death in 22 BC of Marcellus. Claudius enlightened reign is marred by the betrayals of his adulterous wife Messalina, 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 negotiations between the BBC and the copyright holders of Alexander Kordas aborted 1937 film version. This did, however, give the scriptwriter Jack Pulman more time to fine-tune his script, filming was studio based, for artistic rather than budgetary reasons. I, Claudius was made at a low cost of £60,000 for an hour of broadcast material. Considering pound sterling inflation, the show would have cost £3,960,000 in 2013. As discussed in the 2002 documentary I, Claudius, A Television Epic, the deleted shot was only shown twice in 1976 and is now lost since the BBC no longer has a copy of it. Jacobi explained that he secured the role after another prominent British actor who had taken the part proved to be unsuitable. Brian Blessed originally auditioned for the role of Tiberius, but was persuaded to play Augustus instead. He recounted some of director Herbert Wises key pieces of advice on how to play Augustus - Wise told Blessed that he should. Be as you are - full of flannel. and that he should always play Augustus as an ordinary person, john Hurt revealed that he declined the role of Caligula when it was first offered to him. Wilfred Josephs wrote the title music, david Wulstan and the Clerkes of Oxenford ensemble provided the music for most episodes. During its original airing in 1976, the BBC estimated that I, Claudius had an audience of 2,500,000 viewers per episode. Among other awards, the series won three BAFTAs in 1977, director Herbert Wise won Outstanding Contribution Award at BAFTAs in 1978. 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, the series was subsequently broadcast in the United States as part of PBSs Masterpiece Theatre series, where it received critical acclaim
Image: I Claudius titles
Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudius DVD. There has since been a remastered edition with a different cover.