BBC1 Axes Rufus Sewell Detective Drama 'Zen'
Producer Left Bank Looks to Other Broadcasters as BBC1 Controller Danny Cohen Starts to Impose Imprint on Channel

The Guardian, 22 February 2011
By Tara Conlan

BBC1 is axing Italian detective drama series 'Zen', starring Rufus Sewell, prompting producer Left Bank to begin talks with other broadcasters.

The decision provides further evidence that new BBC1 controller, Danny Cohen, is beginning to impose his imprint on the channel. 'Lark Rise to Candleford' was axed last month and last week another BBC1 drama, 'Outcasts', was shifted to a Sunday late-night slot part way through its run after disappointing ratings.

Left Bank, the independent producer founded by former ITV comedy and drama executive Andy Harries, is now in talks with other broadcasters about continuing the series on a new channel. Left Bank also makes BBC1's Swedish detective drama 'Wallander', starring Kenneth Branagh.

A Left Bank spokesman said: "Left Bank Pictures are currently in discussion with other UK broadcasters about 'Zen'. We were delighted that this fresh and stylish detective drama resonated with British viewers, television critics and fans of the novels alike and remain hugely proud of the three films."

'Zen', which featured Sewell as the rakish but honest policeman Aurelio Zen, was heavily promoted by the BBC ahead of its BBC1 debut in early January. On its first outing it beat ITV1's stalwart drama 'Agatha Christie's Marple', although the next two episodes lost out to 'Wild at Heart' and 'Dancing on Ice'.

Based on the books by the late Michael Dibdin, 'Zen' won good notices from television critics with the Mail on Sunday calling it, "compelling, stylish and intelligent drama" and the Sunday Telegraph billing it as "the detective drama of the year".

Over its three episodes 'Zen' averaged 5.7 million viewers, according to consolidated figures, around the same number as the first series of Wallander. t is not unheard of for programmes to shift channels, with 'Men Behaving Badly' transferring successfully from ITV to the BBC in 1992.

Ironically for the BBC, the news of 'Zen''s demise comes on the same day that BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons praised the way the BBC had "developed" viewers' interest in European crime fiction, particularly 'Wallander'. Speaking in Sweden, Lyons said: "As I'm sure many of you know, over the last few years the UK has enjoyed new exposure to Swedish crime fiction. And the BBC has played its part in developing and feeding this appetite." The BBC mounted its own very successful adaption of Henning Mankell's Wallander novels starring Kenneth Branagh. He won a Bafta best actor award last year for his work on the series.

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