“I, Claudius” Remake: Yes Or No?

I’m sure plenty of purists are aghast at the news that HBO and the BBC are going to remake the beloved, ancient-Rome TV series “I, Claudius,” which is based on the work of Robert Graves. How dare they even think of tampering with with this juicy saga, from 1976, of sex and power, which made a star of Derek Jacobi (pictured) in the title role? While I’m as anxious as the next person about a disastrous result, I have confidence that HBO and the BBC will do this project nobly. I wasn’t a fan of the HBO blood-and-jizz series “Rome,” which had the same producers as the new “Claudius,” but at least it was done with high production values. And I’m not especially worried that the new one won’t be able to find thespians on the order of Jacobi and, my favorite, Sian Phillips as Livia, whose contest with a prostitute to screw the most men in Rome was the single most jaw-dropping moment of the television I consumed as a lad. The original version, with its static shots and stately editing, relied on “acting” to keep us interested. A 21st-century version, like the recent re-do of “Sherlock Holmes” with Benedict Cumberbatch, will hold our attention by other means. Or at least I hope it will. Meanwhile, good or bad the new version will introduce the material to new generations, who might never discover the stories and Graves’ novels otherwise. And speaking of that recent “Sherlock Holmes,” my pick for the new Claudius would be its Dr. Watson: Martin Freeman (pictured below).

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