I have always enjoyed the laidback and high quality approach of British Television towards its drama shows and generally any TV program. I happen to come across the drama series ‘Zen’ , a cop detective show based on the Aurelio Zen detective novels by Michael Dibdin. The novels are about a super suave cool Italian Police detective. The series is in English and hence all the characters speak in English and not Italian but that apart the mini-series which had just 3 episodes of 90 minutes each is worth every minute spent watching it.
Zen is about Aurelio Zen played by Rufus Sewell who is the Italian Police Detective. The current series was based on 3 books namely Vendetta, Cabal and Ratking. The show was adapted to television by writer Simon Burke and directed by 3 different directors.
In Vendetta directed by John Alexander, Zen investigates a high profile murder in a remote village where the accused has confessed the crime and later retracted with all evidences pointing to him. He is under pressure from the Police Chief to get the clinching evidence against the accused and also under pressure from influential politicians to find the real murderer. There is also another criminal who is on a revenge spree and out to kill Zen. Beauty is in how Zen skilfully and with a cool mind resolves the issues, solves the case and extracts benefits out of all that but not for his own self. Zen is a committed, non-corrupt police detective separated from his wife and attracted towards’s his chief’s assistant Tania played by Caterina Murino.
In Cabal directed by Christopher Menaul, Zen investigates a suspected suicide of an aristocrat which he thinks is a murder. He is pressured by his chief to close the case as soon as he can and the minister pressures him to get to the roots of it and declare it a suicide. Zen has other ideas as hi pursues the secret organization known as Cabal. This episode also sees the romantic track between Tania and Zen developing further. Zen is a loner and stays with his mother and is separated from his wife while Tania is seeking a divorce from her husband. The romance proceeds as the case of suicide and murder is resolved again smartly by Zen. This episode is slightly loose and perhaps the weakest of the three. There are several loose ends which perhaps might lead to further plots in future episodes.
The third episode called Ratking directed by Jon Jones, Zen get a new police chief who hates the sight of him and he is being trusted to negotiate with kidnappers of a wealthy industrialist by the minister himself in spite of the new chief disliking the idea. He manages to negotiate with the kidnappers and also unearths the devlish nature of the family of the kidnapped man. Romance with Tania proceeds further and they almost live- in together now. Tania’s husband tries to kill Zen but shoots himself and Their lovelife is at a stage where both decides to have a future with each other only after taking sufficient precautions. Zen manages to solve the kidnappping case and motives and also manages to oust the Police Chief and getting the old chief back, who is recovering from a heart attack. The series ends with Zen as an ‘acting police chief’.
The entire series is shot on locations in Italy and has a real laid back style of filming. The show being 90 minutes, it has enough time to establish plot, characters, locales and show us the beautiful countryside of Italy. Rufus Sewell is tailor-made for the job of Zen and looks classy and cool detective in sexy Italian suits but almost as vulnerable as the kid-next-door when it comes to matters of relationships. Caterina Murino – one word- Sizzling – she as Tania Moretti is simply perfect as Police Chief’s assistant and Zen’s love interest. You wait for her to come on screen and you cannot take your eyes off her when she is on screen. Her chemistry with Zen is superbly captured. There are several supporting characters including Zen’s colleagues and friends , his mother, his ex-wife, police chief and minister and his assistant, almost all British and they are superbly cast. The acting by every character is top-notch. BBC’s strict quality requirement makes this show top-class and worth every minute of its watch. The show is set to return with further 3 episodes in the coming year. Can hardly wait for it.
Here is my vote for cool and classy British cop show over noisy, action driven American cop shows. Get the DVD, view it online, download it, whatever, just do not miss it.
My Ratings – 8.5/10 – Brilliant Television, Rufus Sewell as Zen is ‘The’ detective you want to be and Caterina Murino is a dream come true.