Alexander McCall Smith might not seem like the typical Baywatch fan, but the author says the 1990s TV show helped him through a difficult patch.

He said: “I had gone to Italy as a visiting professor for about six weeks, a couple of months actually in Trento in the north. And I didn’t have my wife and my family with me, so I was living by myself in this flat in this tiny city and I just found myself feeling very gloomy.

“I thought, ‘I’m homesick’. Of course, homesickness falls into that category. And so I do remember that I just felt disinclined to do anything and my sleep was disturbed, which, of course, is a tell-tale sign. But I didn’t at the time realise this is what I was.

The Herald: Alexander McCall SmithAlexander McCall Smith (Image: free)

“I used to go back to the flat in the evening after work and I would have the same meal every evening which was Mozzarella cheese with tomatoes and olive oil and then I would watch Baywatch in Italian. A really sad picture. And this lasted for a couple of months.

“There was an Italian station which showed Baywatch every evening. It did help my Italian a bit. Things like, ‘Quick, fetch the rescue boat.’ I would get quite fluent at that.

“And then, of course, the moment I got on the plane it stopped.”

Read the full interview this Saturday