I love a good assassination. As a teen I came into possession of a coffee-table book that wallowed in the glory of this particular form of butchery. Abe Lincoln, Franz Ferdinand, J.F.K, and Martin Luther King — these greats were all dispatched with well-aimed shots that have rippled through our historical timeline.

It's impossible, yet kind of fun, to imagine how things would have unfolded if these hits hadn't been so successful.

No WWI if Franz lived perhaps? Nukes dropped on Vietnam if John F. Kennedy had bent down to tie his shoelace? The end of all life as we know it, or some much better turn of events?

Perhaps we'd now have billions upon billions of superannuation dosh if Muldoon had been liquidated by an assassin?


Of course, the killers are even more fascinating than the killed, perhaps because that was something I could actually aspire to, as being a respected world leader looks like too much hard work.

But I can imagine being an unhinged fame-seeking killer; that's well within my grasp. If all humanity exists on such a spectrum, how many of us really think we are closer to Gandhi than Lee Harvey Oswald?

That notion is milked with great alacrity in The Assassination of Gianni Versace, the follow up to the tremendously executed The People Vs O.J Simpson.

Both shows appear under the banner of American Crime Story, and are the work of Ryan Murphy, a master craftsman of television who also gave us Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story and the ace 2017 bio-soap Feud: Bette and Joan, which dramatised the fractious relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. It's one of last years best shows.

It starts with the execution. Something chills as we flee with the killer, we want him to be caught, even as we want him to get away


His latest lavish production begins with the shooting of the famous fashion designer Gianni Versace by a troubled young man; an appalling narcissist with just enough humanity to elicit the baseline of pity that a viewer can fashion into something approaching empathy.

Evil monsters exist in lame procedurals but in real life and better shows, we get glimpses of mental illness, shocking histories and all the stuff that adds up to the notion that no one truly chooses to be awful, let alone evil.

It's a terrific opening episode, and the only one directed by Murphy himself.

It starts with the execution. Something chills as we flee with the killer, we want him to be caught, even as we want him to get away. Edgar Ramirez, who plays Gianni, possesses a remarkable likeness to the dead fashion legend, while former Glee star Darren Criss seems like he was born to play the killer, Andrew Cunanan.

Also impressive are pop star Ricky Martin as Gianni's partner and Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace.

The latter is a real-life mate of Donatella and only took the part after she got the thumbs up from the living Versace. Other family members and Gianni's ex were less impressed with the outcome.

I, Claudius

Around the same time I was fixated by assassins, I was often sneaking into the lounge to watch I, Claudius, or at least until I was sent to bed. Part of the attraction was that it was one of the few places where naked female breasts were (fleetingly) shown on TV in the late '70s.

I didn't really understand it yet it begged for attention, even when the actors were fully clothed, which sadly was most of the time. Just this week, I started rewatching again thanks to YouTube, which handily has all the episodes of this landmark 1976 BBC production.

The star is Roman Emperor Claudius, played by Derek Jacobi in a career-defining role. We're talking ancient Rome starting in 24BC.

The late John Hurt is terrific as the awful Caligula, Sian Phillips owns the deliciously evil Livia and the booming Brian Blessed, pre-beard, is a brilliant Augustus.

Yes, it looks a bit dated, the wigs, togas and makeup lack the subtlety of a Ryan Murphy production, but there's a reason the show remains on all manner of all-time best lists (it's number 12 on the BFI's best UK TV shows of all time).

For a start, the Roman empire is a hell of a setting, replete with incest, cannibalism, murder and limitless political shenanigans. It's not a long bow to compare it to The Sopranos and crazy not to mention Game of Thrones, which is no doubt why HBO bought the rights to remake the series a few years back, despite having mixed success with their mid 2000's series Rome, which though good, didn't make them quite enough cash.

Back to Claudius. You may be shocked by the leaden pace of a studio-based drama from Britain in the '70s, I know I was, but I soon found myself binging with ease; the script bubbles, the acting fizzes. I even found myself watching a documentary about its making, also on YouTube, called, fittingly, I, Claudius, A Television Epic.

Spoiler alert, it begins and ends with an assassination.

●The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Soho; I, Claudius, YouTube