'Zen' Axed by BBC One
Axed drama proves popular at the BBC's international sales conference boosting chances of it being picked up by a UK broadcaster
TheArtsDesk.com, 24 February 2011
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.
Danny 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.