This popular thirteen-episode BBC mini-series makes for compulsive viewing whether or not you have any interest in the early history of the Roman Empire. Based on two novels by historian Robert Graves, I, Claudius delves into conspiracies, ruthless murders and cover-ups, betrayal, seduction and madness. It's Dallas relocated to the years before Christ was born, when scheming men wore togas and struggled for power while the women got married and stayed in the background -- sometimes in the best position of all when it came to moving their chess pieces around.

Our hero is Claudius, gloriously played by D-d-d-d-derek Jacobi, who twitches his head and stammers over every other word. As a young man, he watches his friends and relations die off, one by one, poisoned by the ruthless and destructive Livia (the queen of pure evil, Sian Phillips) as she grooms her son Tiberius (George Baker) to become the second emperor of Rome.

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