What Laurence Fox did next - Aidan Smith on the week’s TV

The pandemic is 
killing our 
chances of jetting off to sunny foreign climes this summer so everyone is having these weird dreams about Judith Chalmers in a sarong. Or is that just me?

Laurence Fox in White Lines

I suppose if I start 
fantasising about Cliff Michelmore in a sarong – he was TV’s first fearless inspector of Spanish donkey rides and Venetian gondola excursions – I should worry.

But White Lines (Netflix) might provide some virtual, vicarious lockdown consolation: golden sands and turquoise waters glistening against a backdrop of azure mountains. The only snag, really, is that “knobbish d**khead half-educated t**t”, Laurence Fox.

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Actually – and that’s Fox description of himself – the Question Time provocateur is pretty entertaining as a clubbing raver who came to Ibiza 20 years previously and never left, turning himself into some kind of Shamen-addled shaman in a long white gown who these days sips mushroom tea and hugs cows.

White Lines is a murder-mystery. A Manchester DJ called Axel went to Ibiza 20 years ago and disappeared. Now his body has turned up and his sister Zoe (Laura Haddock) is investigating. The drama lurches from comedy to darker tones. One minute poodles are going mad after licking cocaine spilled on a lawn; the next a heavy is shot with a harpoon-gun. There’s another conflict: does Ibiza want high art and operas or just more orgies? Zoe suspects a cover-up. When the sex parties aren’t in progress, at least.

Some little blue pills were crucial to Appeal Court: the End of the Line (BBC1), a courtroom documentary. No, not those kind of little blue pills, madam! The produce from a clandestine Paisley factory had landed two men in jail, only they were back before the bench angling for a reprieve.

Despite being 200 times stronger than cocaine, the drugs had previously been classed as “legal highs” and as this programme unfolded – as the men and women in black gowns and £400 horsehair wigs fired Latin phrases at each other – I wondered how strange Scotland’s criminal justice system might look if you’d wandered into Court No 3 in Parliament Square, Edinburgh having just popped one.

But, viewed with a mug of Ovaltine and a macaroon bar, this was an intriguing programme, not least for being unique in the entire recent history of workplace-based reality TV with no one playing to the gallery, real or metaphorical.

M’learned friends didn’t seem to be aware of the cameras, which is a good thing, because the law is a serious business, especially when you’re trying to curry favour with Lord Carloway. The Lord Justice General possesses a wonderfully gloomy countenance and you certainly wouldn’t confuse him with an oleaginous shopping-channel host flogging jewellery or strimmers.

When the court retires to deliberate, Lord Carloway says: “Avizandum.” You could sense the relief from defence counsel that he hadn’t dismissed their arguments there and then. In another case concerning murder convictions, debate over the significance of a bar stool went on too long. “I suppose there are points of greater substance in this appeal,” 
his Lordship sighed. 
Sub-text: there bloody well better be.

As the brother of Scotland’s newest judge I was always going to watch this. With bro, and Advocate Depute Alex Prentice, featured in the programme, I share an alma mater: Edinburgh’s Broughton High School. I can just about remember the motto on the blazer – Fortiter et Recte – but when it comes to Latin these guys leave me standing.

Chris Bonnington’s live ascent of the Old Man of Hoy in 1967 is part of the telly tapestry of my childhood. So I had to watch Climbing Blind (BBC4), too – Jesse Dufton tackling the fiendish finger of steepling sandstone 137 metres high on the edge of Orkney despite not being able to see his hand in front of his face.

With his degenerative eye condition Dufton bumped into bushes and parking cones before his attempt. Brave? Mad? “Crossing the road is way more dangerous for me,” he explained. Oh, and another thing: rather than shackled to a climber up ahead he did the leading. It put our lockdown loafing into sharp perspective (yours especially).

Forty years ago in a church hall in Edinburgh’s Old Town I saw the then-unknown Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson win the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s inaugural Perrier Award. Another member of the Cambridge Footlights troupe became omnipresent on panel games and seemed to be comedy’s neediest show-off.

What’s the Matter with Tony Slattery? (BBC2) caused me to scold myself for that earlier judgement as it told its desperately sad tale of drink, drugs, depression – and sexual abuse aged eight.

What a brave film about mental health, and what a moving one about love, Slattery’s partner Mark Hutchinson staying by his side through thick and (very) thin.

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