Box set one-upmanship

This box set one-uppery has got to stop. Status anxiety has a new best friend in the water cooler battleground of must-watch TV. Bad enough to have missed the GROUNDBREAKING NEW TELEVISUAL EVENT when it was actually on (what were you doing, for God's sake - like, talking?); if you haven't yet collected and consumed the full range of authentically gritty, dryly witty, uniformly pretty AHBCO shows about people who are dead (Six Feet Under, Pushing Daisies, True Blood), people who eat with their hands (Rome, The Tudors), people who smoke (Mad Men, Life on Mars),  people who talk very fast with guns (The Wire, The Shield), people who talk very fast with briefcases (The West Wing, In The Thick of It) and people who burst into song (Scrubs, Flight of the Concords), then you're a social pariah and it serves you right for looking out of the train window instead of streaming episodes on your iPhone.

I wish 'the guys who brought me' would stop bringing me new, very slightly different stuff. I have towel washing to do.

Back in the heady days of teenaged Oxfordshire hermitry and unselfconscious geekdom, I could spend hours carefully labelling videos with printed episode labels Sellotaped onto the spines (Matura MT Script Capitals for American Gothic, Courier New for The X-Files, Haettenschweiler for Space: Above and Beyond).

But when I discovered there was a big bad world beyond the M40, I became a very disloyal viewer. I have no stamina. I've done my best to keep up with Rome and The Tudors; I still try to be in for House; I always Sky Box Merlin (I'm not proud). I love these shows like children, but like children I usually end up resenting their relentless demands for attention.

However. Over the past couple of weeks I have caved. Yes, I have become a total box set bitch with chocolate on my oversized T-shirt, sofa sores on my arse, and drool on my chin, and the culprit is a series that none are talking about and few can actually remember.

II, Claudius.

If you haven't seen this 1976 BBC adaptation of Robert Graves's novels, which follows the history of Roman aristocracy and empire through the eyes of Derek Jacobi's limping, stuttering hero and has star turns from the likes of Brian Blessed as an emotionally incontinent blancmange of an emperor, Sîan Phillips as a terrifyingly arachnid matriarch, Patrick Stewart as a stone-hearted, dead-eyed soldier, John Hurt as a wonderfully fair, fragile and fucked-up Caligula, and a stable of neighing, toothy 70s actresses who look suitably imperially in-bred, then you're totally not in my gang.

Seriously, watch it. For once, it really is unique.