Posted by: Paul | January 17, 2011


In lieu of new episodes of the Kenneth Branagh Wallander (the good news being that more have been commissioned, including 3 new stories), BBC1’s new Sunday night detective drama Zen ended it’s first 3 part run last night.

Zen, based on Michael Dibdin’s series of novels, starred Rufus Sewell as the titular detective, an honest man in a corrupt world just trying to keep his head down and get from one day to the next. Forced to live with his mother after the breakdown of his relationship with his cheating wife, and dragged into seemingly inescapable situations by dirty politicians looking for a clean way out of trouble, Zen is soon up to his neck in intrigue, double-crossing and unsolved crimes. The shady government hand on his shoulder points him towards bloody mess after bloody mess, saying, “there you go. Make all this go away quickly will you? There’s a good chap.”

I liked the approach taken with the tone of the show. Despite the action being set in and around Rome, the production makes no attempt to Italianise anyone involved (except those who are already Italian, such as Caterina Murano, above). It could just as easily be an East London cop drama, but for the beautiful settings, the character names, and the golden light washing almost every frame. At times it looked like a renaissance painting.

The humour also greatly appealed – Sewell is as dry as the Sahara, and in the final episode in particular there were some big laughs, particularly an incident with a desk set up several scenes before and subsequently forgotten until the payoff.

Every police procedural has to have a unique angle to recommend it. Luther’s was the love/hate relationship with an uncatchable nemesis turned helper, and Wallander’s was his fight with depression. Zen has several goes at different things but never fully alights on one – good man in a bad world, steamy affair kept secret, government intervention at every turn. It’s a subtle blend of different influences and becomes all the more satisfying for not hitting you over the head saying ‘this is what this show is really about’. An intelligent programme which credited its viewers with a modicum of intelligence too – a rare thing in this day and age. I hope, and think, we can expect to see more of Zen.



  1. I loved Zen too and thoroughly dissapointed it has ended. Any idea when this show will return to our screens??

    Matt Kent

    • Hi Matt,
      Thanks for visiting! I imagine we can expect to see another series about the same time next year, it got positive ratings and reviews and Rufus is a big draw. Having said that, the Beeb has yet to announce whether it’s been recommissioned – but there are more books than were made this time around.

  2. I hope they make more – loved it!

  3. wat a show loved it, get it back on, and god isnt caterina murano stunning holy god, pete

  4. Fantastic, I do hope that there are more Zen episodes I absolutely loved it, Rufus Sewell is gorgeous

  5. Brilliant! I was so gutted to find out that it ended so soon. I really do hope that there will be more Zen episodes soon! I absolutely loved it, Rufus Sewell is so sexy!! Yummy 😉

  6. Absolutely loved Zen and hope the beeb have the good sense to make more! At last something i am happy to pay my tv licence for!

  7. Brilliant. Great story. Great acting and very, very beautiful women. Want more please!

  8. what a great series! my whole family and friend were well hooked up! Hope to watch more soon 😉

  9. Just simply a fantastic series and have just discovered that no more Zen tonight! I found that this touched my sense of humour and adventure in a way that doesn’t happen often. I’ve heard people criticise the program so want to voice my opinion in case the bbc feel that they shouldn’t commission more… Jeremy Vine listeners should not set the benchmark for creative television. Please continue to let me escape for 90 minutes to the world of Zen….

  10. Zen was an absolutely wonderful show! Why good things don’t last?! BBC should get the show back on air ASAP…! Finally something worth sitting down to watch.
    I’m so sad it ended.

  11. Have just realised that last weeks episode was the last one. Gutted. Great show, best thing I have seen on TV since Sokin’s Studio 60.

    Why the beed keeps doing these short series I will never know. A series is in my book 8-12 episodes.

  12. Bring it back its brilliant. A little bit of sunshine and Italy! Beautiful cast in a beautiful place, much needed for the January blues!

  13. I am so angry at the BBC yet again! Literally I have just sat down with a cup of coffee and a fag ready to watch my new favourite programme and a highlight for the end of my week before work and before I tuck myself up in bed with an early night after watching something I enjoy. But when I turn on the telly ready to watch it, I find out it was only 3 parts and that was all I am getting. This is the same as Sherlock Holmes (and many others) where people have rated and said how good the show is, and by all means, Zen is beautifully shot and directed, the script is perfect and highly entertaining. It is a shame that the BBC cannot realise and fail to realise, again, how good a show can be and how much potential it has to still go even further. Such a pity yet again and I never normally complain, but to have Terry Wogans Ireland replacing the time slot is, well, dire and infuriating! Wisen up PLEASE!!!

  14. Brilliant show, very disappointed it ended so soon. You mentioned it might be back same time next year, do you mean December 2011/12?? Surely such brilliant programs should be shown a lot more then some useless programs currently on telly… If BBC wants audience, zen should be their top priority to guarantee a draw.. Perhaps it may not be drawing as large an audience as expected, I am sure they know better..

  15. I can’t believe there are only three episodes. I’m hooked on this show

  16. please please please make more programmes…I’m in love with Caterina Murino! Rufus Sewell is a great Zen. Loved the books before I saw the TV.

  17. I was suprised not see Zen last night…. I scanned the menu to see if it had been put back an hour to no avail!

    I thought Zen was brilliant…. it was one of the few shows I’d earmarked to watch as I rarely watch Tv other than the news during the week.

    The characters were great, and being shot in Italy the locations were fab….

    Please bring it back

  18. Zen… one of the very few reasons why I’m happy to pay my licence fee. Rather disappointed to be told by my wife that it wasn’t on last night as it was the perfect end to the weekend. Just hope the BBC recommission this beautifully shot drama and give it a decent run of 6-8 episodes.

  19. Zen – a great programme. More please!


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