Television choices: Simon Schama journeys around the Jewish faith


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: The Story of the Jews

Sunday 9pm BBC2

"The Jewish imagination is paranoia confirmed by history," says one of the guests at Simon Schama's Passover meal, as the historian begins his new series about the Jewish experience – "the story that made me want to be a historian in the first place". He begins his account of a "fiercely argumentative lot" in 1938 when Sigmund Freud, an exile from the Nazis newly arrived in London, began to argue of the importance of their faith in enduring the periodic threats of extermination faced by the Jews. Schama then journeys back to the Victorian Christian evangelicals scouring the Holy Land for evidence of Moses, and the Jewish historian Josephus, who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70BC.

The X Factor

Saturday 8pm ITV

The show that gave the world One Direction (and Jedward) returns with the judges providing all the pre-season headlines, as Sharon Osbourne returns to replace Tulisa, and join Gary Barlow (rumoured to be off at series end), Louis Walsh (confirmed to be leaving) and Nicole Scherzinger. It will be interesting to watch the Osbourne-Scherzinger vibes.

Robert Peston Goes Shopping

Monday 9pm BBC2

The BBC business editor begins a new series exploring how shopping changed from being a chore into a favourite pastime – and "how retail changed us, and made and broke the British economy". But first back to the Fifties, when shops were local and – following manufacturers – fixing prices. It took an hour, apparently, for women's daily shop.

Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth

Tuesday 9pm & 2.30am BBC4

Curious to think that Aristophanes's Lysistrata – first performed in 411BC and in which the women of Athens refuse to have sex until their men make peace with Sparta – was banned in Britain until 1957. Michael Scott argues that the comedy forged as Athens lost her empire and her democracy is still prevalent today.

Meet the Monkeys: Natural World

Friday 9pm BBC2

The wildlife cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson travels to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi to examine the lives of Celebes crested macaques, which are found nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately for these extremely rare monkeys (and the biologists studying them), their illegally traded meat is considered a delicacy.

The Guilty

Thursday 9pm ITV

It's currently boom time for television whodunits, and hot on the heels of BBC1's What Remains, comes this not dissimilar series in which the body of a four-year-old boy, who vanished in 2008, is discovered in a drain just yards from his house. Tamsin Greig plays the investigating officer. Darren Boyd and Katherine Kelly play the dead lad's parents.

Harrow: a Very British School

Wednesday 8pm Sky1

Anyone looking for a critique of privilege and the public school system should look elsewhere, as Harrow, established in 1572 to provide a classical education for 30 boys of the parish (it now costs over £30,000 a year), allows in the cameras. This opener follows the new boys as they follow in the footsteps of Lord Byron and Winston Churchill.