His name is Zen, Aurelio Zen, a Venetian police detective working in Rome. He’s got a reputation as being an “honest detective,” but he can break the rules when he deems it necessary to solve his cases. Zen is almost 40, yet lives with his mamma. In between dealing with local politicians who have him under their thumbs and solving various crimes, he’s trying to have an affair with his boss’s secretary, Tania. As presenter Alan Cumming says in the show’s introduction, “Zen’s life is like a plate of pasta, tangled and full of loose ends.”
Rufus Sewell plays the dapper detective in this series, which was shown in the US as part of PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery. It’s based on three of the best-selling Zen detective novels written by Michael Dibdin, “Vendetta,” “Cabal,” and “Ratking.” After reading the novels, Sewell said, “I just think Zen has a comic outlook. I thought this is an opportunity to do something that is real and believable but comic.” So, he tried to bring out the humor and personality of the novel version of Zen and put it into his performance on TV.
What’s unusual about this UK show is that it takes place in Rome. All the characters are Italian, yet they are played by British actors with British accents. The locations are, naturally, quite beautiful. It’s Italy! No matter where you point the camera, you find a stunning picture.
It’s too bad only 3 episodes were produced. By the end of the third episode, it had started to gain some momentum and it would have been interesting to see how the characters would have developed, where it would all have headed. BBC One canceled the series stating that there were already too many male crime-fighters on TV. I would have thought that the exotic location and the subtle performance by Sewell would have differentiated it from the rest.
Rufus Sewell – Aurelio Zen
Caterina Murino – Tania Moretti
Catherine Spaak – Mamma
Ben Miles – Amedeo Colonna
Stanley Townsend – Moscati
Ed Stoppard – Vincenzo Fabri
Total Seasons: 1 (3 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2011
Viewer Discretion: Adult situations, violence