Television choices: Rageh Omaar's timely take on the roots of modern conflict in The Ottomans

  • @GerardVGilbert

TV pick of the week: The Ottomans: Europe's Muslim Emperors

Sunday 9pm BBC2

Being scheduled against Downton Abbey and the returning Homeland won't do wonders for the overnight viewing figures of Rageh Omaar's timely new history series, but it's worth catching on one platform or another. The Ottoman Empire, whose 600-year existence ended after the First World War, encompassed so many recent trouble-spots – from the Balkans to Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria, by way of a modern Turkey struggling with its identity – that Omaar claims that if you don't understand it, then you're missing half the roots of today's turmoil. So who were the original Ottomans? Nomadic horsemen, it seems, who, within a couple of centuries, had created the most diverse empire since the Romans.

The X Factor

Saturday 8pm ITV

The "judges' houses" round – or, rather, the flashy pads rented for the occasion. This is when Louis Walsh's auditions in St Tropez were supposedly interrupted by a strimmer in neighbour Nicolas Sarkozy's garden – a good story. Elsewhere, Gary takes the groups to New York, Nicole and the girls are in Antigua and Sharon hosts the over-25s in LA, with help from Robbie Williams.

Sex Box

Monday 10pm Channel 4

Couples who have just enjoyed coitus in a soundproofed box (sexy) are interviewed about it afterwards – stop me if you've already read about C4's attention-grabbing attempt to "add context to pornography" as part of their Real Sex Campaign. Mariella Frostrup leads a panel featuring the therapist Phillip Hodson and the "Sex Inspector" Tracey Cox.

Art of Australia

Tuesday 9pm & 2.30am BBC4

The current Royal Academy exhibition of Australian art has been dubbed "tourist tat", so try, instead, Edmund Capon's new series. The British- born former director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales begins with the country's indigenous culture being overlooked until the Australian impressionism helped establish a national identity.

Sleepy Hollow

Wednesday 9pm Universal

"You've been emancipated I take it?" asks Colonial soldier Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), having been knocked cold in 1776 and awaking in 2013 in the custody of an African-American cop. This new Washington Irving mash-up is best in such fish-out-of-water exchanges, although the headless horseman and the Book of Revelations stuff is strictly for the fantasy buffs.


Thursday 9pm ITV

Call the Midwife and Mad Men are both obvious influences on a new hospital drama set in a gynaecology ward in 1961 London. Jack Davenport is the Don Draper of the piece – a charismatic surgeon with a sideline in (then illegal) abortions – while Catherine Steadman is appealing as the young nurse struggling with the prospect of marrying a man she doesn't love.

Tubular Bells: the Mike Oldfield Story

Friday 9pm & 12.55am BBC4

An interview with a no-longer reclusive Oldfield supplies the backbone to a telling of how a 19-year-old wrote and single-handedly performed the biggest-selling instrumental album of all time – supplying the theme music to both The Exorcist and the London Olympics opening ceremony – while helping to make Richard Branson's fortune.