Zen, to my surprise, is from top to bottom a British creation. The show is based on the books by a British writer, Michael Dibdin, who used to live in Italy. Produced by the BBC Zen is filmed in Italy to a striking result. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, don't be surprised if I announce any holidays to Italy in the near future.
The idea behind the books, and the TV show, is to put a decent and honest police in an otherwise corrupt world. Our incorruptible policeman, Aurelio Zen, is played by Rufus Sewell, who looks suitably Italian in spite of being born in Twickenham. You get a taste of the Italian macho culture straight away when Zen arrives at work and is approached to join in on the betting of who will be the first to nail the new secretary, Tania Moretti. She is played by an actual Italian, Caterina Murino, who, to no one's surprise, used to be a model.
This is where I start to take an issue with Zen, it's a very superficial show, only about appearances with not a lot of substance. Zen and Moretti are quite the dashing couple, and it's all very slick, very photogenic, but that's it. You might as well watch it with the sound off, and just pretend it's a promotion by the Italian tourist board.
None of the actors are very convincing with the inevitable result of a forced dialogue. It does not help when most of the cast, with the exception of Sewell and Murino, have accents which would be better suitable for an episode of EastEnders. Maybe it's the Italian macho culture making an appearance again, or just lazy writing, but pretty much every woman Zen meets is either his mother or trying to get into bed with him. Possibly, it's just his crisp Italian suit.
The biggest sin of all, and the one which makes it impossible for me to find my zen, is the complete lack of mystery. Aurelio Zen does not do any actual police work at all, he might as well have been a traffic cone. He just stands there and waits for a clue to walk up to him and present him with its business card. It's all just a series of coincidences, which is not what I wanted. I regret buying all three episodes of iTunes.
If you want to watch striking scenery and beautiful people Zen is for you, but if you want an actual mystery I suggest you consider Inspector Montalbano.