76. I, CLAUDIUS - TIE 

Written by Robert Graves and Jack Pulman  

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Aired: PBS, 1977-1978

‘Twas the year of the miniseries: In January of 1977 Roots premiered on ABC; in March the network’s scandalous hit Rich Man, Poor Man concluded, and in November, public television’s Masterpiece Theater waded into the muck – albeit the rarefied muck – by airing the 13-hour I, Claudius from the BBC. Jack Pulman adapted the Robert Graves’ novels to the small screen, with direction by Herbert Wise. The cast featured British royalty – Derek Jacobi as Claudius, John Hurt as Caligula, and Sian Phillips as Livia (the name, coincidentally or not, of another cold-blooded matriarch 30 years hence, on The Sopranos). In his review for The Washington Post, Tom Shales took American producer Joan Sullivan to task for excising out some of the nudity and gore endemic to the doings in Ancient Rome while concluding, “Despite the meddling of a nervous and presumptuous American producer, I, Claudius remains a rich and respectable sensation.”

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