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  • I have to say, I have really been taken by surprise by this series. I really enjoyed the first episode but, it was the 2nd episode, Cabal, that really got me hooked. First and foremost I absolutely love the extended running time. At 1:30 minutes, without commercials, its literally double the average running time for drama's and ultimately it gives the show the ability to be far more character driven. I honestly don't think I have ever seen a series before that had this kind of running time and ultimately I think it speaks to the kind of show its trying to be.

    Zen is really a throwback to old school TV. No funky cinematography, no shaky cameras, no funky camera angles, no high tech police gadgetry etc. In fact, I don't think I even remember seeing a single computer. Cell phones are about as high tech as this show has gotten thus far. The locations are simply stunning and that is no surprise given that it takes place in Rome. I openly admit that was initially one of the things that I was most excited about as I absolutely love Rome. Its hands down one of my favorite cities in the world and its a perfect setting for this series, especially with the approach that they have taken.

    Of course if your going to have a show in Rome then fashion simply must play a role and the show certainly doesn't disappoint in this regard. The wardrobe choices are impeccable especially in regards to Rufus Sewell's suits. He looks outstanding in practically every scene. Then you have Caterina Murino and she looks absolutely fabulous as well. Her outfits are classy and while there is definitely a very sexy edge to her look, its not overtly sexy. She just looks stunning and they look absolutely dynamite together.

    As for the stories, thus far its definitely been one of the weaker aspects of the show but they have still been entertaining and in regards to story, the 2nd episode was definitely an improvement over the first episode. I love the whole Cabal storyline and hopefully it will be a reoccurring theme with this show. It fits perfectly with the shows setting in Rome and while these types of detective shows always have different stories with each episode, there is usually a main storyline that takes place alongside the solving of individual cases. I think The Cabal would be a great choice in this regard.

    Overall I have really enjoyed the first 2 episodes and cant wait for more. This show is just such a breath of fresh air compared to the usual detective riff raff that is practically everywhere you look. Hopefully Zen can pull in enough viewers as it would be a real shame to see this show end prematurely.

    Definitely a solid 9 out of 10 thus far.
  • Underrated leading man Rufus Sewell gets his best role in years as Italian police detective Aurelio Zen in this summer's Masterpiece Mystery series: ZEN - now in rotation in the U.S. [ >>>>>See note on how to save this series at end of review<<<<< ]

    Going against the grain of playing to younger audiences - and beautifully produced on location in Italy - this is a series for adults, lovingly crafted by a spot-on cast and shot with verve by cinematographer Tony Miller (INFINITE JUSTICE). Calling it a "detective series" seems to miss he point entirely, for it is really about watching Sewell establish an ultra-cool, post-modern anti-hero with the quiet confidence of a Raymond Chandler gumshoe and the personal flair of a '70s Alain Delon film noir protagonist.

    Playing off an accomplished Italian/English cast ( see the office love interest embodied by the mesmerizing Caterina Murino), Sewell is a study in understated reserve that can turn testy when high-placed superiors want favors and cover-ups that are just not in Zen's wheelhouse. One of the fascinating things about Aurelio Zen is he must deal with a reputation for honesty that most of his cynical peers assume is just a pose, hiding a more crooked set of values closer to their own. It is too Sewell's great credit that he plays with this, sometimes showing Zen's more devious side, but then steering back to safer shores of a muted integrity that stays pretty dinged-up from episode to episode.

    While there are satisfying moments of action and rather robust plot twists, still it is the face and expressions of Rufus Sewell that lock down this fresh, interesting series; his staying alive goes way beyond being able to think on his feet - for Zen must continuously side-step the dark expectations of his suspects and superiors, walking a tightrope between the half-truths and dangerous lies that make up his professional world.

    In a TV universe of ever-falling standards, we should support this rare, intelligent portrait of a complex man trying to outsmart a world that grows more ruthless everyday. Those wishing to sound-off to the PBS execs that can perhaps reverse the BBC's initial decision to not buy more episodes can try contacting the American Executive Producer of PBS MYSTERY based at Boston's WGBH - Ms. Rebecca Eaton. In the past, she has been instrumental in saving several series that were not immediately picked up for a second season.-Brian H. Shaw b l o g "F.I.L.M.interpretation" at
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm Italian, so I was curious to see the show because it claimed to portray "real" Italy, not the oh-it's-so-lovely-in-Tuscany crap. Pretty accurate. I won't go into the detective plots, which are average at best and full of implausibilities (also, the reality of Italy in 2010, with Berlusconi in charge and all that it implies, surpasses any fiction... :-/ ); I won't complain if a guy throws himself from a balcony of a prostitute in full daylight and it doesn't make the news or cause a new investigation: the show thrives on visuals, on quirky dialogue and on its actors. And Rome itself looks like the most beautiful place in the known universe - which it basically is. Some scenes are so lovingly shot in golden light that you nearly feel the heat in those narrow alleys, in the eternal Italian early Summer that Zen probably inhabits.

    Rufus Sewell is absolutely Italian, totally rocking the suit-and-sunglasses look (if you think he looks pretentious walking around like that, try walking through central Rome any day; guys like that are a dime a dozen here). He also nails the body language - in CABAL, the face he makes when Arianna tells him she is "a lady of the night" is really "in a different language" compared to how British actors would ever react, and the scenes with his Mom (who by the way is a French actress but nobody apparently noticed the different accent) perfectly express the way Italians feel forever 12 when under the scrutiny of their Mamma.

    I didn't mind that each character spoke in their own accent, it doesn't distract much; however Caterina Murino is really unintelligible, heck, I have much less of an accent and I'm not even in showbiz. However she just needs to be there, look beautiful and wear improbable garish blouses (THOSE are really fictional, no Italian woman in an official environment like a police department would wear them; definitely some male fantasy of what a desirable Mediterranean woman must look like). She doesn't seem to have much personality yet, we'll see if it gets better later. I wonder what is the point of Francesco Quinn's character, but I also guess they're just introducing him for the next stories.

    Zen (yes it's a real Venetian name, it sounds more like Tzenn) is no hero and is actually often rather "sfigato", which is a refreshing change from all those heroic American cops or the tortured musings of a Wallander. It will be really funny when this show - a co-production - gets dubbed into Italian and shown on our TV. People will find all kinds of faults with it. But you see? I'm being really Italian! I already see the worst-case scenario! People like me are the kind of world Zen lives in, and he's perfect in it.
  • The idea of taking a team of British actors and placing them in a crime fighting scenario in another European country can have mixed results. It worked with Maigret and it didn't work with Wallander.

    It DOES work with Zen. Whether or not it adheres to Michael Dibdin's novels I don't know because I haven't read them.

    Visually this series is a treat. The men are impeccably dressed and all look like James Bond! The stories themselves aren't going to win any awards but the journey is nonetheless an enjoyable and satisfactory one.

    If you're worn down by the usual shaky-cam stupidity of most modern trashy UK drama featuring the hyper-melodramatic plot lines and scripts with the usual, overly used actors and you need a reassuringly glossy and understated look into a world of low key drama then Zen is for you.

    Not masterfully intelligent but neither is it insultingly cringe-worthy.

    ZEN is a thoroughly enjoyable drama and a refreshing change of pace.
  • After the success of the BBC version of the Swedish police drama 'Wallander' it appears that they decided to make another police show set on the continent, this time trading Scandinavia for the warmth of Italy. Set in Rome this series follows three cases for Detective Aurelio Zen. It quickly becomes apparent that he is one of the few honest cops but that doesn't stop politicians leaning on him to solve cases that serve them whether or not justice prevails. Zen isn't perfect though; he is having an illicit affair with a woman he works with for starters. The stories themselves are gripping and there are plenty of suspects for Zen and the viewer to wonder who did it.

    This series is very different to Wallander, he isn't full of angst or suffering family problems; he just gets on with the job while enjoying life and being dressed in a very sharp suit; Rufus Sewell is great in the role. The series is filmed in a way that conveys the heat of the setting so that even though most of the actors speak with English accents nobody would think they were meant to be British. The decision not to have non-Italian cast members speaking in mock Italian accents was wise; ever since 'Allo 'Allo false foreign accents have seemed humorous rather than clever. It is just a pity that the series was only three episodes long; I hope it will be successful enough to warrant further series in the future.
  • And then they go and axe it. Typical.

    ZEN was a three-part miniseries adaptation of of the literary detective Aurelio Zen. The BBC took the decision to shoot in English and not bother with dodgy accents, which works well.

    I found all three episodes to be smart, stylish and above average thrillers. Each episode contains danger, intrigue, political machinations, romance and humour. Rufus Sewell is perfectly cast and plays Zen to the hilt, and he's supported by an excellent list of actors headed by the lovely Caterina Munro.

    Add in some classy music and beautiful locations and you have a winning series. Of the three episodes, the first, VENDETTA, is the strongest, featuring a murderous assassin; the second, CABAL, gets tied up in government conspiracies and shady suited figures; the third and weakest, RANSOM, features Zen thrown into the middle of a kidnapping where nothing is what it seems.

    It's a shame we'll never find out who was at the other end of the phone but nonetheless, ZEN made for great viewing.
  • There's always a risk when adapting the written word to a screenplay; the risk that the nuances of the one will be lost when rendered to the other. Fortunately the BBC has a fine pedigree when transferring both book & play to the screen (from 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' to Charles Dickens, & any number of Shakespeare's plays), as well as when working in collaboration with international broadcasters (who could forget the excellent 'Rome'?).

    Their vast experience in this field has really paid off with 'Zen', a detective series based on the novels of English crime writer Michael Dibdin. Although there are some differences between the novels & the television series, they are minor & serve to facilitate the adaptation from the written to the visual. The television characters are perhaps slightly softer than their written counterparts, a necessity of economy when one considers that each episode is only ninety minutes long. Despite that the characters are well-rounded, with Rufus Sewell doing more than enough to cement his place in what is bound to be remembered as a modern classic of television.

    In addition to Sewell's excellent suitability for the role, he is surrounded by an equally impressive international cast. The direction, lighting & shot composition all contribute to producing a superb whole, & it would be remiss not to mention the wardrobe, who do a fine job of catching that Italian verve.

    In essence 'Zen' is a hugely enjoyable series of tasteful whodunnits, which never reveal who really did do it until the end. At the time of writing, the real mystery is whether all eleven of Dibdin's novels will be televised - it would be a crime if they weren't.

    Altogether a stylish series with a sophistication brought about by understated subtlety.
  • When I first tuned into Zen I was expecting something interesting. Not only did it achieve that, but I wasn't expecting something this good so early on in the year.

    Zen is just terrific, I loved the concept and I think the programme lived up to this concept. The writing is witty, fresh and thought-provoking, the soundtrack is good, the episodes are all well paced and I think the perfect length too, the stories were both perplexing and interesting- the first was the best in terms of plot construction- and the whole series is very well directed.

    The characters are also credible, I just love how charismatic, brooding and cool Aurelio Zen is. The acting is very good, Rufus Sewell is just perfect in the lead meeting his character traits with aplomb. Plus Caterina Murino is stunning beyond words. The real revelation was the production values, as good as the photography, lighting and costumes are the scenery and colours are just breathtaking.

    Overall, Zen was brilliant, I had high hopes and got more than I expected and I mean that in a good way. I don't know about anyone else but I also thought it was a very refreshing change of pace, however it is deserving of more episodes if and when it comes back, the three episodes while wholly satisfying still left me wanting more. 10/10 Bethany Cox
  • This is a wonderful series, and I am very sad that it is axed. Very well written, with great charm and wit, but also a serious purpose. It shows how, even in one of the most corrupt social / political orders in the world, someone with integrity can manage to weave through it all with his dignity, intellect and conscience intact, without being the least bit priggish, moralistic, or overly obedient to the rules and regulations.

    A marvelous balancing act: it was a pleasure to watch. Rufus Sewell plays it just right, never giving away his intentions but somehow letting us know that he is thinking of how to get out of whatever impossible situation he is in. Catarina Murino is both beautiful and witty.

    How could anyone halt such a wonderful series???
  • ph-nijman10 January 2011
    Love it
    Wow, a treat for the eye and brain. Beautiful locations, la bella figura, good soundtrack, a 70-ish leader and colors that remind of The American (the one with Clooney's buttocks). Full of not obvious clichés as the mama and the 'damn-the-rules' driving.

    Rufus Sewell plays Aurelio Zen with an understated coolness that is nearly Bond-like. Although uncorrectable there is always a twist in the end. The suits are sharp, one hand never leaves his pocket and he strikes a pose when entering a room. Not when there are women in the room who he has to zip up, then he is the fumbling schoolboy. Caterina Murino as Tania Moretti, the office secretary all the men drool about, has a nearly chique appearance. But, the cleavages are to low, the skirts to tight and the top button with to much tension.

    The comparison between Kenneth Brannaugh's Wallander end Sewell's Zen is has to be made. Both play a foreign detective in the original setting. But in Wallander they cut back on the office lightning to create suspense and a gloomy, Swedish atmosphere. In Zen everything is vibrating with sunlight and warmth.

    Love it, we want more, we want more.
  • Zen is TV craft at it's finest. Sewel is perfectly cast: articulate, stylish and has a bookish rogue quality all understated to perfection. The interactions, dialogue and maneuverings between characters avoids clichés and sets a new benchmark.

    ...when I raced to find out if BBC were renewing the series...No. They weren't. How bloody typical. Once again they have a wonderful series in the making, great casting, story lines and settings unlike anything done on TV land. But thanks to the ratings number crunchers at the BBC they ditch it in the sea, without even offering the series to another production house???

    Take Hunted, Identity, Outcasts ( a brilliant concept ), Intruders, The fades, Silk, and no doubt others. Hunted was electrifying stuff, but they canned it. Unforgivable.
  • I think everything has already been said in the above reviews about this series of three 90 minute episodes.

    Its a stylish, beautifully shot,well acted,classy piece of entertainment, with fairly decent story lines with Rome as the backdrop.

    Though i haven't watched the third instalment i felt the second 'Cabal' was a definite improvement on the first 'Vendetta' which i thought was slightly preposterous

    No, it won't appeal to everyone, think of it as Bergerac with style, it has an upbeat Midsommer Murders pace to it.Like someone has said, it bucks the current trend of hard nosed police dramas, and it works, give it a try. You might just be pleasantly surprised like i was.

    Some might condemn this as escapist TV but what's wrong with that? we all need to get away sometimes so why not summer in Rome, i can't think of a nicer place.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Aurelio Zen is a detective in Italy who is extremely good at solving crimes, however; this talent gains him the attention of the people higher up the food chain, who have plans for the detective.

    I must say I was swayed by the beautiful scenery that appeared on the promos and then I found myself laughing at the blunders of Aurelio Zen, a man who is too honest for his own good, he has a beautiful secretary using him (supposedly), an angry boss who takes everything out on him, senior bosses who scheme their nefarious plans with poor Zen at the center and a mother who wants him to get back together with his ex wife. Oh and he's taken up smoking again! The three episodes are intertwined with a mystery as well as the trials and tribulations of Zen's life, at times the mystery tends to lose emphasis but Rufus Sewell does a wonderful job in keeping the viewer entertained. Plus there is the beautiful Caterina Murino who plays Zen's love.

    Unfortunately I've just heard this show is no more...Which is a shame because all the other detectives on television are exactly the same, dull. But Zen is different, he's suave,sexy, intelligent and mundane.
  • I highly recommend Zen, an offering of PBS's Masterpiece Contemporary series, which originally aired in 2011. Based upon the late Michael Dibdin's novel, three ninety-minute episodes were created.

    Get past the initial "Mr. Cool" physical persona of its protagonist, the excellent actor Rufus Sewell - and dig the witty, understated dialog and delivery; the excellent cast; the delicious locations; the whole damn vibe.

    Ironically, Sewell found a perfect role for himself in Aurelio Zen: PBS soon however had a change of management and the series went poof into the Strata of Lost Entertainment Excellence – at least the show is in good company. It's our loss that there were no more episodes (in a spooky way the third episode ended with a perfect moment). "Vendetta", "Cabal" and "Ratking" are available on DVD, likely headed to becoming an overpriced cult item. Enjoy.
  • A kind of mix between mini-series and standard detective fare. The unique aspect is that the very British cast lives in Rome and the detective bit is more Columbo than Sherlock Holmes. It succeeds mainly because of technical filming excellence, acting, and direction rather than any clear sense of originality.

    The comparison to early James Bond in looks and feel is likely deliberate. Everything from the credits to music to those creepily retro narrow ties and tight pants fairly shouts 1963. The only nod to 2011 is how cell phones seem to control major parts of the plot. Everything else could just as well be transposed from similar films from fifty years ago, namely the storyline and romantic subplot. To be fair, it is difficult in this kind of fiction to avoid cliché, but I keep hoping that something new will turn up rather than the usual car chase scenes.

    Still, the scenery is beautiful and the ambiance captivating. I hope it portends more episodes in the future.
  • I just wanted to say that I love love love this show! Rufus is undoubtedly soo sexy and he plays his role very well. I love the fact that the atmosphere was different. That it was filmed in Italy. I think , and I can only speak for sure for myself, but we grow tired of seeing the same places over and over again. Do not get me wrong I love New York city but how many shows, movies and videos have been shot there. There is something terribly romantic about the atmosphere in Zen. It is something we do not see every day. I truly hope that someone picks this up and makes a comeback with it. However I feel it will only work if they Keep Rufus and not make any changes, just do it like you did before =)) I read a comment that the producer or someone of that nature said they pulled the plug because there was too many crime dramas on TV already. Well you could say o I'm not going to drive this car because too many ppl have it, or I don't want to go blonde because they are a dime a dozen. SO what if it is another crime drama! It was good. AND it WAS different.. the location was wonderful. I say bring it back. =)) and if anyone knows anything, please drop me a line. Thank you
  • I've just watched the third episode on ABC in Australia and I'm kicking myself that I missed the first two. What a great series. I can't believe the BBC canned it. Great story, characters, pace, had me thinking and trying to keep up with what the inscrutable Zen was doing. Sad that there won't be anymore.

    I've just watched the third episode on ABC in Australia and I'm kicking myself that I missed the first two. What a great series. I can't believe the BBC canned it. Great story, characters, pace, had me thinking and trying to keep up with what the inscrutable Zen was doing. Sad that there won't be anymore.
  • As I am an eager follower of UK and Scandinavian police dramas, it is logical than I have finally reached Zen, although, apparently due to 1 Season of 3 episodes, it has been "lost"/forgotten somehow. And that is pity - as the characters/performances, pertinent environment enhancing the general mood, and some unexpected twists make it a far-above-average miniseries. The events take place in Italy, all the cast is very local type (mainly from the UK though), but all communication is carried out in English (the same approach as in the e.g. Wallander UK version). The chemistry between Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen and Caterina Murino as Tania Moretti is sweet, yet realistic, ironing out some irregularities in the plot and scenes included just for thrill, but mystery is maintained and the Italian scenery makes you want to revisit Central Italy again...

    PS And Rufus Sewell is a really versatile character actor, just recently saw Man in the High Castle where he stars as well. And so differently!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I enjoyed the only series made of Zen and was surprised that the BBC haven't made any more. Each episode is 90 minutes long and features Aurelio Zen, a detective in the Rome police force. Zen, played by Rufus Sewell has a reputation for doing things by the book, a trait that doesn't seem to be shared by all of his colleagues.

    This reputation means that he is asked to undertake specific "sensitive" investigations by representatives of the Italian government, who want them to be handled in a particular way. They also make it clear that if the results aren't to their satisfaction his career will be in jeopardy. The viewer wants to see how Zen can stay true to his morality without ruining his career. We also get to see his private life, which is also pretty complicated!

    The series was shot in Italy but with actors playing the Italian characters being nearly all native English speakers. This is fine but then along comes Italian actress Caterina Murino playing one of the characters with strong Italian accent. This piece of casting jarred for me a little but since Caterina is gorgeous I've learned to be okay with it.

    Rufus Sewell is excellent as the suave but vulnerable Zen, always trying to do the right thing, usually under difficult circumstances.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    While the performers and settings look wonderful, the craft of creating a plausible action movie gets lost on the Autostrada. Three bloopers: 1) Normally, a cell phone that falls underwater goes out of use. Not so Zen's; after his struggle in the underground lake, he's back on his cell phone, talking to his new girlfriend. 2) And in that cave adventure, he loses the flashlight to the mysterious girl. Yet, a few moments later, he's got it in hand again, finding his way out. 3) When Zen escapes from his three, heavily-armed captors, he doesn't so much fight his way out as much as the camera and film editor help him out with quick, evasive camera shots.
  • Prismark109 February 2014
    Aurelio Zen is a fictional Italian detective created by the British crime writer Michael Dibdin. The BBC drama was a brave attempt to adapt the stories with European co-producers.

    Filmed in Italy with a mainly British cast, Rufus Sewell throws away his recent run of playing Hollywood villains to become sharp suited Zen.

    A committed and tenacious detective. Also because he is Venetian working in Rome he also has to deal with a lot of politics as his more inferior fellow detectives get by with minimum effort as they enjoy patronage that he does not have.

    Sewell really took the role by the scruff of a Valentino shirt collar. With location filming in Rome, high fashion, ace detective work and having Caterina Murino as your love interest he certainly knew he was into a good thing.

    The mysteries were engaging enough and like the BBC adaptation of Wallander, you soon got used to the mixture of accents.

    Unfortunately the series was not renewed, the viewing figures were good but not just high enough. It might had been a marginal decision as it seem it came down to more Zen or more Luther.

    I think more Zen adaptations would had been nice to have.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (From the viewpoint of someone in the United States) The series "Zen" is OK; however, I do have some gripes about the main character. I understand why they create a flawed detective so as to create drama in the story (like Wallander and Luther). But if you overdo it, he is not convincing as a good detective. He just looks like a big sissy. A viewer expects his detective to have either brains and or brawn, but the character Zen does not overwhelming convince me of neither. The character's carelessness causes him to lose evidence and gets people killed. It almost seems like he bumbles his way into solving a case. In at least two episodes he is warned that he might be followed, yet he is oblivious they whole time as he is being followed. Why does he even carry a gun? He doesn't get a chance to pull it out and/or continues to be overtaken and apprehended from behind by the bad guy. The only reason he stays alive is because for some reason they decide to let him go. At least give him a partner who can be the brawn.

    As one other reviewer mentioned, Caterina Murino is stunning. They could use some better background music especially when viewing the lovely Italian scenery. Instead they use the same tune over and over again and sometimes it feels like it doesn't fit the setting. Hopefully in the second season they make corrections to the weaknesses of this show. There is a lot of good potential here and I hope they can make the changes so that they can take it to the next quality level.
  • blanche-211 July 2019
    All can say is, Rufus Sewell - hubba hubba.

    Wow - Zen is a marvelous series about a Venetian police detective, Zen, played by Sewell. He works in Rome and is known for scrupulous honesty and incorruptibility. Because of this, he is often approached by officials to take care of politically uncomfortable situations. When he does, in return, he asks for a favor.

    Though it was made in 2011, the show doesn't rely on DNA, computers, forensics, though they might play into the plot. They have cell phones and that's about it.

    Filmed in Rome, it is absolutely stunning to look at, with the actors impeccably dressed, especially Sewell. Caterina Murino, who plays the boss' secretary, is beautiful and does a nice job as a conflicted woman.

    But let's talk about Sewell. First off, the man is gorgeous and with that soft-spoken voice, you could faint. He's very sexy. I wish he would play James Bond. I'd run to the theater. Zen is cool under pressure and never gives away what he's thinking. He manages to do what he's been asked to do and keep it above-board, even if he's unconventional.

    I didn't read the reviews but I imagine there's something somewhere about the British accents in Italy. Well, they're not speaking English with an Italian accent. They are speaking Italian. It's an old acting convention. Otherwise, Chekov plays would be done with Russian accents.

    Very good. Wish there were more episodes.

    Unfortunately there were only three episodes so it's unclear if this was a miniseries or supposed to be a series - it was nicely wrapped up.
  • marquesmunoz17 February 2019
    Love It
    I am very angry that this show had gotten cancelled. This is a great show and it was cancelled because "there was too many detective shows on television." This is an excellent show.
  • I would love to see this show restarted, and with Rufus Sewell's rising popularity it might be the right time.
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