'Zen' Could Survive After Being Sold Abroad
Axed Drama Proves Popular at the BBC's International Sales Conference Boosting Chances of It Being Picked Up by a UK Broadcaster
The Guardian, 2 March 2011
Axed BBC1 Italian detective drama 'Zen' has been sold abroad to five countries, boosting hopes a new series could be picked up by another UK broadcaster.
Although MediaGuardian.co.uk revealed last week that the show, starring Rufus Sewell, has been canned by new BBC1 controller Danny Cohen, it is proving popular at the BBC's international sales conference BBC Showcase in Brighton this week. The three-part series has been sold to broadcasters in Australia, Denmark, Holland, Japan and Sweden.
Left Bank, the independent producer of Zen, which is part-owned by the BBC's commercial arm BBC Worldwide, has been in talks with other broadcasters about recommissioning 'Zen'. BBC Worldwide invested money in the show, along with Ingenious Broadcasting and international co-producers ZTI, part of Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset, US broadcaster PBS and Germany's ZDF.
Over its three episodes, Zen averaged 5.7 million viewers, according to consolidated figures including seven-day timeshifted viewing, around the same number as the first series of 'Wallander', which is also made by Left Bank. 'Zen''s demise has left some drama executives mystified as it was well-received by most critics.
Ironically, one of the BBC's exhibits at BBC Showcase is a sign which tells the international buyers that: "'Zen' beat the broadcaster's slot average share and comfortably ranked first in its time slot."
The BBC has also received complaints about the decision to axe the series. The BBC's complaints website says: "We have received complaints from some viewers unhappy that 'Zen' has been decommissioned.
"BBC Drama has a lot of very exciting projects in development and going forward we have taken the decision to look at some of these new titles, rather than commission a second series of 'Zen'.
"We've recently announced five new commissions including 'One Night' – a four-part drama from Paul Smith, 'Call The Midwife' – a six-part adaptation by Heidi Thomas of Jennifer Wirth's best-selling memoir, and a three-part adaptation of 'Great Expectations' by Sarah Phelps to mark Charles Dickens' bicentenary. We hope that fans of 'Zen' will take to these new dramas in the same way."