Aidan Smith's TV week: Manhunt: The Night Stalker (ITV), Sex Education (Netflix), The White Lotus (Sky Atlantic)

Martin Clunes’ face would stretch the resources of the photofit departments of most police stations. I just don’t think the boxes marked “Mouths”, “Noses” and - especially - “Ears” could produce something this characterful.

Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O'Grady bitch about their fellow hotel guests in The White Lotus.
Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O'Grady bitch about their fellow hotel guests in The White Lotus.

So if not the bad guy, can he be the cop? He’d have to be quite a nerdy cop, by-the-book and - how can I put this politely? - unexciting. Well, in the opening scene of Manhunt: The Night Stalker (ITV) Clunes is totally preoccupied with dishwasher salt.

This is Clunes’ second outing as real-life detective Colin Sutton. I missed the first one, possibly because I didn’t have a week of my life to spare. But this doesn’t feel like a long stretch, which is remarkable, given that DCI Sutton won’t get into fights or extra-marital affairs or grand speech-making. As he shuffles around with his jumbo notepad and coloured pins for sticking in maps, Clunes makes the methodical gripping.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

There are two moments when he gets to use his comic timing, both as he’s trying to secure sizable additional manpower to help catch said Night Stalker. Top brass don’t look like they’re even going to turn up to hear him make his pitch and Clunes says: “This reminds me of my eighth birthday party.”

Connor Swindells, Ncuti Gatwa and Asa Butterfield discuss the new head teacher in Sex Education.

But he gets the extra bodies and colleagues are amazed. “I just applied my teenage philosophy for asking out girls - they can only say no. Mind you, in my case they generally did.”

The light moments are a relief for the case is a horrible one of elderly women in south-east London being burgled and raped. It’s 2009 and the slew of attacks date back 17 years - “a black hole” according to one officer.

Sutton is brought in as a “fresh pair of eyes”. This doesn’t go down well with a tired and disillusioned investigation team; it’s implied criticism of their work to date. And before long he’s pointing up bureaucracy, clunkiness and just the wrong way of going about catching a man with “the weirdest psycho-sexual urges imaginable but who’s in complete control of himself, his crimes and his victims”.

Do you remember your sex education? For me, suddenly and without warning, music lessons were removed from the timetable and replaced by six weeks of “Anatomy & Physiology” with a visiting teacher. This was boring stuff about your knee bone being connected to your thigh bone until Miss - an elderly woman in hairnet and horn-rims - announced: “And next time, class, we will be learning about reproduction … ”

Martin Clunes in Manhunt: The Night Stalker on the trail of a serial rapist

We couldn’t wait and talked about little else until the great day dawned. Of course the r-word wasn’t quite as exciting as we’d hoped. A bit like The First Time. Fair play to Miss, though, for battling through the constant sniggering, which would have been even worse if, instead of having an erect male member pre-drawn on the blackboard, she’d attempted one in front of us. And that, dear reader, is the story of why I never became a concert penis - I mean pianist.

But oh to have been a pupil at Moordale Secondary School, the setting for Sex Education (Netflix). Gillian Anderson, most recently responsible for tutoring about the birds and the bees, does not wear a hairnet and never will, otherwise TV is finished. Completely.

The third season begins with the pupils doing their homework. In the back seats of cars, in living-rooms, in - how boring - bedrooms, on their own, virtually, dressed like fembots from Blake’s 7 (remember that one, sci-fi geeks?) … and hang on, isn’t that two teachers doing it and on a drum-kit as well?

But this bonking montage might be historic. Employing a sex therapist - Anderson’s Jean Milburn - and staging a sex musical and being the scene of an outbreak of chlamydia had, unsurprisingly, prompted the tabloids to dub Moordale the “Sex School”. Now, though, there’s a new head teacher and she’s determined to turn these randy young minds back to their studies.

Hope Haddon is played by Jemima Kirk from Girls, which was a great show, but I’m far more impressed that her dad Simon was the drummer in Free. I love Sex Education but not for the obvious reasons, honest. It’s full of the sweetest friendships, the unlikeliest alliances and the most unsympathetic brutes undertaking 180 degree turns. It’s a more daring, more cool, more everything Please Sir!, the top comedy from when I had helter-skeltering hormones, so that’s high praise. And it’s the best-looking show on TV with everyone dressed in the zazziest colours, right down to the bicycle wheel-rims, although I fear mandatory school uniform is coming.

I missed the start of The White Lotus (Sky Atlantic) through being on holiday though not, I hasten to add, anywhere like the featured Hawaiian luxury hotel, but at its end must add to the wild praise: this is a scabrous satire of the rich at play with a vengeful act in the finale which makes you think that if you ever suspected a waiter of spitting in your soup, you got off lightly.

Creator Mike White assembles a superlative cast of scene-stealers from other terrific American shows - Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Steve Zahn (Treme), Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria), Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls) and Molly Shannon (Divorce) - and has Murray Bartlett as resort manager Armond pull the rug from under them with a lunatic performance which almost makes Basil Fawlty a candidate for Hotelier of the Year. I want to go back there next summer.

A message from the Editor:

Get a year of unlimited access to all of The Scotsman's coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.