I Claudius

Watched I Claudius on BBC 4 and it was a feast of classic English acting with good scripting. Sian Philips of course steals the show but the quality throughout is high and very entertaining. Jacobi’s Claudius was painfully detailed. It anticipates the method-cripple fad of the 80’s by a good few years without any American hype. It also shows where new TV serials like Succession and Righteous Gemstones come from. They are pushing the envelope of comedy and satire but are firmly based on traditional models. Essentially there is nothing new in either Succession or Gemstones that is not in I Claudius, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare and closer to TV home, The Sopranos. Tony Soprano’s first person narrative frame is just the same as Claudius’. The Soprano’s is like a bridge between the straight if very funny drama of I Claudius to the extreme comedy of Succession and Gemstones. I love all this TV but the pressing problem remains that TV drama and comedy do ALL the work for you. You just sit and consume it like some hamster or rabbit nibbling away their generous helpings of mammal muesli. At least with books, the great classic books that all the TV serials are based on in scope, theme and character force your brain to operate to create the visuals of the story… you are 50% part of the creative team in a book fiction. This has to be good for the brain and spirit. I wonder if there are any studies comparing TV watchers with book readers in terms of mental health and clarity in older age? I know of at least one book reader who went demented and I know a few rascals who never read a book in their lives and binge on TV and are perfectly compos mentis… but I wonder if there is any science on it? There is no doubt in my mind that the sense of satisfaction and wellbeing you get from finishing a great fictional drama in book form is far greater than the equivalent satisfaction from completing a big TV series.




Roddy McDevitt



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