mon 22/07/2024

Zen axed by BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Zen axed by BBC One

Zen axed by BBC One

So goodbye then, Aurelio

Aphrodisiac: Rufus Sewell as Italian detective Aurelio Zen

Horror and dismay have greeted BBC One controller Danny Cohen’s decision to axe detective drama series Zen, after the network aired a solitary three-part series in January which pulled a very respectable 5.7m viewers per episode.

Shot amid succulent Italian locations in Rome and the surrounding countryside, Zen won plaudits for Rufus Sewell’s performance in the title role (and it appeared that Sewell in a range of stylish Italian suits exerted an aphrodisiac effect on a sizeable number of viewers), while his leading lady and former Bond girl Caterina Murino lent an aura of Italian voluptuousness to the production.

Some argued that the films failed to capture the authentic flavour of the late Michael Dibdin’s original novels, and a mostly British cast pretending to be Italians struck a few wrong notes, but the show possessed a wit and style absent from most home-grown dramas. Besides, BBC One was hardly to going to air a series in Italian with English subtitles at prime time on a Sunday night. theartsdesk is vastly not amused at the show’s disappearance, because our review of Zen drew a huge number of hits and readers were still adding their (mostly enthusiastic) comments about the series long after the third episode had been broadcast (Sewell with Caterina Murino, pictured below).

Zen__girl_smallDanny Cohen has also terminated Lark Rise to Candleford and caused a bit of a stir when he appeared to say that the BBC makes too many middle-class sitcoms. At a time when the BBC Trust thinks that Radio 4 needs to expand its listenership and “should be promoted among minority ethnic opinion formers,” a groundswell of grumbling is becoming audible from those proverbial white middle class Zen-loving licence-payers.

Cohen himself mumbled some opaque evasions to Radio Times. "BBC Drama has a lot of very exciting projects in development,” quoth he, “and going forward we've taken the decision to look at some of these new titles rather than commission a second series of Zen."

All may not be lost, since Zen’s producers Left Bank (who also make the Kenneth Branagh version of Wallander) are now in discussions with other networks to find it a new home. Which would be great, as long as it doesn’t go to Sky Atlantic where hardly anybody can watch it.

Danny Cohen: 'We've taken the decision to look at some new titles rather than commission a second series of Zen'

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How depressing is this decision...BBC obviously now run by faceless headless chickens without style or humour.

ZEN . . . fantastic . . . really enjoyed all three in the series and have been looking forward to more . . . enjoyed the series so much I looked up who the author was and am now reading the books . . . Danny Cohen and the BBC trust need to GET A GRIP . . . from a very working class Zen loving Radio 4 Listening viewer/listener.

This is a shame, really. A classy, humorous, witty crime drama with an excellent cast, beautifully shot, interesting cases and wonderful locations that didn't do badly in the ratings and got lots of positive reviews can't just be discontinued like that :-(( I want lovely Aurelio back NOW!

Perhaps it was the suits, but Sewell conveyed more than a hint of louche-ness in the Zen character

Shows just how clueless the controller of BBC1 is. Zen was the first thing that was actually worth watching on a Sunday evening for years, with almost universally positive feedback. It does make we wonder what planet these "planners" are on.

Hugely disappointed that Zen has been axed by the BBC. No doubt more reality rubbish to look forward to. Danny Cohen and his cohorts evidently have no idea what the viewers actually want to watch, look at the mess he has made of BBC3. I sincerely hope that Left Bank Pictures are able to find Zen a new home.

Another decision taken in the ivory tower. These people show a total and utter disregard for the viewing public.

this is such a depressing decision and a further indication of the rather nasty, distasteful thinking of the bbc these days. 'zen' was a wonderful production, stylish, witty and fun. a very classy and entertaining programme, beautifully acted. i do hope all the people who have written here have made their feelings known directly to the bbc. the attitude that prevails in the bbc is dubious if not repellent. certainly quality appears not to be at the very top of the agenda. let's hope that enough people speak out to make sure this high quality programme is picked up quickly elsewhere. there is so little that is this good and modern that we can't afford to lose it. if you are in a position to apply pressure adam sweeting please do.

well i agree with everybody above how dare the bbc axe Zen. It was absolutley brilliant, witty good stories brillaint acting by all . RUFAS was brilliant also, why have they axed the best thing on tv. for many a year. Well Zen supporters time to vote with our tv. buttons. I suppose we will be subject to a load of rubbish. Bring back Zen bbc. before everybody switches off.

I am outraged at the BBC and hope that Andy Harries of Left Bank Pictures will find another company to produce Zen. There have been thousand of positive blogs and comments all wanting more of Zen. Zen is the best new series shown on the t.v. for a long time. It was brilliant. Well written, beautifully shot, fantastic actors, especially Rufus Sewell and Ben Miles but all were excellent. The viewing public want more please. It will be a crime if this series does not continue. It is pure entertainment, refreshing, new, stylish and just plain GOOD.

This is indeed sad news. The writing, acting and production values of Zen were a huge cut above the increasing amount of mindless pap on BBC1. It is so depressing when a channel gets a controller who sees it as his mission to toady to the lowest common factor in everything. Let us hope that BBC2 or another free to air channel takes up this series which is full of potential that the intellectually challenged Danny Cohen cannot see. It has certainly sent me off to read the Dibdin books.

I was trying to find somewhere to voice my dismay at the news that there was to be no more fantastic Zen. It was utterly brilliant, witty and stylish and the best thing on BBC since Bleak House. We have so much dross and banal stuff these days and we have to stoop to the lower common denominator when it comes to programming now. Oh for more of decent viewing like this. I despair of the BBC and instead I read because there is nothing stimulating on any channel these days. BRING BACK ZEN.

as usual the bbc cannot judge what the discerning audience actually like to watch - zen was the best thing in years - better than a lot of the tired rubbish that is constantly aired again and again

Sad news about ZEN, how can the BBC get it so wrong. BRING BACK ZEN

I rarely watch BBC1 any more. A channel once at the forefront of tv drama is now a sad runner up to Channel 4, itv - shock horror - and even Sky. I suspect it has much to do with budget, as Zen was particularly lavish... and probably not enough left in the coffers to be spent on antique shows, "talent" contests and other mind-numbing hours of programming.

Another reason not to watch the BBC any longer. Seriously, when can we stop paying them any kind of fee as they really no longer deserve it?!

Please B R I N G B A C K Z E N please

Still waiting for the BBC to bring back Zen. What a bizarre decision to axe such a well made, popular series.... Now we're faced with Inspector Lynley mysteries repeated for the nth time. Really....!

I have completely enjoyed Zen, one of the best I've seen and was so sorry to hear that there was not a plan to make more. It has just been viewed in the US/ Canada to rave reviews. I hope that this has an impact on the decision to make more episodes and SOON!!!!!

This series was outstandingly good. The decision not to make more is unfathomable and ill considered.

Keep Zen and get rid of that ignoramus Danny Cohen . Why do these self important twits not listen to the viewers and think that they know better.

So sad! We are disappointed. My husband and I loved the series. Please reconsider your decision BBC? Signed, Loyal Canadian fans of Zen

Can't believe only 3 episodes and poof. Bring it back the show was fantastic loved seeing Sewell each week.

Now the Beeb has a new Director General, is there a new campaign being launched to bring back Zen, especially as Inspector Montalbano has proven popular on BBC4.

I have just watched the DVD of Zen and amazed at the short-sightedness of Danny Cohen in cancelling the series. A well crafted and well acted piece of British fiction with a continently style. However as he also commissioned such intellectual gems as The Undercover Princes, Britain's Missing Top Model and The World's Strictest Parents his reasoning is understandable if not, in my opinion, sound. With the success of Inspector Montalbano I hope that BBC4 will now have the wit to commission more Zen.

I agree, Zen is one of the best BBC series in the last 10 years. Clearly this is very shortsighted of the BBC, not to recommission!

Why does the BBC insist on employing cretins? Get rid of Danny Cohen and bring back Zen - it makes total sense to his followers.

Apologies to all for the delayed post on this topic, but some friends were chatting last night (please note: in a working class pub) about when this series is coming back. I disagree with the people who are calling for Cohen the Barbarian to be removed. I think he is a supremely talented and visionary individual who is ideally suited to the task. If his aim is to democratise the Beeb he should stay to continue to demolish what was once a great drama and entertainment network and leave the world with such gems as The Undercover Princes, Britain's Missing Top Model and The World's Strictest Parents et al and turn it into Chat or Heat TV. Strangely, enough, you can be working class and like quality TV and drama – especially about a character that has standards, judgement and scruples while all around have not – um, remind you of anyone? Seriously, how many more feet have the BBC got to shoot themselves in? Now switching channels...

It is now 2013, just seen Zen for the first time shown on BBC Entertainment. We anticipated the next episode tonight only to be very disappointed. We can't believe that no other channel took it on. There is so much rubbish on this channel and Zen was a real pleasure.When will BBC realize that we are not all mindless idiots?

A brilliant, classy bit of telly. Gutted it hasn't found a new home yet.

Its now Christmas 2013 and we can see from the foreign made for tv detective series being shown all through 2012 and 2013 - just how POPULAR they are, & how INTERNATIONALLY POPULAR they have become as well (VIP cos they are "money spinners") ! I beg the BBC to " re-consider" returning to make more series of "ZEN" With Rufus Sewell. This series was infinitely well acted, well directed, well-produced - & I think, given that the aeries was "axed" by Cohen in 2011, to bring them back again NOW will prove a HUGE HUGE "coup" for the BBC! Montalbano & Borgen have been HUGE, haven't they? But they are finished now. We need ZEN back for another series.....its time is NOW! Please "re-consider"..... Thankyou.... :-)

I agree. More zen with rufus Sewell!!!! So fun to watch

Where is Zen - just discovered it and am so impressed with the show. So well done and a big cut above so much of what is done these days. We were anticipating watching the series only to find out there is only three episodes! Is there not anywhere brainy enough to bring it back! I hope someone reads this and wakes up!!!! Such a classy show deserves to carry on..

I'll preface this by saying I live in Nob Hill ( San Francisco ) . I by chance stumbled upon "Zen" ,I believe on PBS here in the States. This clown Danny Cohen should be cleaning toilets in a McDonalds , the head bean counter for BBC 1. Controller ? Right ! All the garbage coming out of the UK ( your reality series make ours look like Shakespeare dramas) should be an embarrassment to anyone with an once of integrity. Zen is possibly the most stylish ,well acted and creative mystery you have had since Morse. It does not pander. The location shots in Italy are tremendous and the cinematography is great. The idea of a Brit accent in Rome works well,as it enforces the clipped Italian accents of the female characters ,which are very provocative . The dialogue and mannerisms are very Italian,not in the least Anglo. Every woman and man I know felt the urgency of the sexual tension. Italian women have a sophistication and sex appeal the Brits could only dream of . In closing. It is March 2,2014 as I am writing this little epistle. Downton Abbey is a joke. If one were to read the dialog ,you would see what a hack a Fellows is as a script writer. That show should have been cancelled after the second season. Danny Cohen. If you lie with dogs ... Best J. Gerber USA

Well said. As a fellow San Franciscan (and long-time British ex-pat and Euro mystery fan), I couldn't agree more with your comments about Zen, Downton and Cohen.

Well done J Gerber! You're right and it was a travesty that this show was cancelled when endless hours of pap were allowed to be broadcast. At least there's another Branagh Wallander on its way and the excellent Hinterland - filmed in Wales and with a bilingual script, sadly BBC were too chicken to give it a prime time slot, but at least you can watch it in BBC4 and iPlayer. Hopefully Left Bank can find another channel for Zen but as so much time has passed it looks doubtful.

I was so sorry to see this series and all if it's glory gone. The acting was superb and the characters so interesting to the eye and mind. The Italian surroundings I just loved and wanted to jump in the scene. I hope the decision makers at the BBC get cancelled. Zen needs to return to investigate this cancellation decision.

Re watched Zen on BBC Entertainment. This short series was well-acted, entertaining and amusing. For once we get something of quality, but the BBC can't recognise this. Of course the opinion of the viewers counts for nothing! What a change from police series set in dreary British cities.

What a wonderful series - and Italy as the backdrop as well. A sparkling change from the cop series in London, New York etc. I cannot believe they axed it - clearly BBC cares not for quality.

(writing from New Mexico). It's May 31, 2015 and our family still misses Zen! Out here in the boondocks of the U.S., we continue to long for BBC series of that caliber.

Still miss Zen. Just enjoying it now on Netflix. However, would love to have seen a second series. One of those rare programmes - you don't just enjoy watching it, you wish you were in it!

19th June 2017 and the whole family is STILL WAITING for more ZEN. BBC be aware, there are those of us out here who (post Brexit) love Zen even more, who appreciate witty, stylish well written drama and will never let it rest. MORE ZEN NOW!!!!!

Zen was utterly stylish, classy, beautifully acted, directed & produced. Nevertheless with such an excellent quality of REAL TV drama in competition with it, such as, 'I'm A Desert Island's Big Brother's Celebrity Swearing Chef So Vote Me Off This Planet Of The Apes' , it never really had a chance, did it? Quality BBC1 Entertainment? R.I.P. . .

A tragically bad decision demonstrating that sexism is equally pervasive for men. Perhaps someday, producers with measures of intelligence and class will resurrect what is one of the better products to come from BBC in this decade.

Just stumbled across the three Zen episodes and am hugely disappointed to find that the series was cancelled after the first season. A stylish, well acted, and witty production such as this deserved a longer run.

Like the previous comment I too have just stumbled across this series, and I thought it was excellent. So good, in fact, that I didn’t even care about some of the wooden acting displayed by a few of the minor characters.... in fact I think it may even have added to the shows appeal! I presume the cancellation was a consequence of the wokemania that has been destroying the BBC for the last 15 years.

Just watched the three episodes of Zen, loved it. Why the BBC didn’t continue with another series is so disappointing. Pleeeze, someone recommission this stylish show.

I’ve just binged watched Zen and loved each episode...I loved the old school vibe, classy, not trashy, viewing Rome life, good stories, great personalities. I would definately watch more of this series. Please don’t stop things that the viewers like ...many thanks

Yes, classy, but Sewell shows his consumate acting skill by giving Zen a hint of the louche dandy

Just watched all 3 and I think BBC shot themselves in foot cancelling this. It could easily have run for years with 3-4 specials each year. Real shame


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