Television review

I wonder whether Talia, the prostitute who kicked off a series of confessional interviews with members of the oldest profession (Prostitute, BBC1, 10.45pm), was paid for her time. I just want to talk, Esther Rantzen would have explained, and Talia would have arched her eyebrows, heaved a sigh, and rattled out the rate card. She suggested later that she had charged pounds 75 an hour - and while I wouldn't claim any intimacy with the going market rate for this kind of thing, I couldn't help feeling that represented a pretty good deal. Perhaps it was a smokescreen for the tax- man, because Talia was articulate and beautiful and spoke four languages, the sort of attributes that should put you into the private jet bracket, rather than the clinical array of massage-parlour cubicles which were shown here.

The offer is no longer available, incidentally, in case you were thinking this represented an unusual breach of the BBC's rules on advertising: "I've closed the door on prostitution," Talia said near the beginning of the programme, though anyone hoping for a repentant Magdalene act would have been a bit disappointed. She had closed the door on prostitution and walked a few feet down the corridor to open the one marked Porn Films. In one respect her curriculum vitae was perfect for such occupations - she recalled a childhood marred by sexual abuse and maternal indifference (her mother, a strict Roman Catholic, was so fearful of the lures of vanity that she wouldn't let her daughter look in mirrors). In another respect, though, her career trajectory was rather mysterious. She had had a successful career in training air stewardesses and it was never explained why that job had ended so abruptly or why she hadn't been able to find a new position - other than the missionary one.

Something was being avoided and Rantzen didn't draw attention to the gap. Nor did she extract anything very novel from Talia. To the ancient cliches of prostitution - "heart of gold", "victim of circumstances" - we have recently learned to add several new ones - remarks about supplying a therapeutic need and being the exploiter rather than the exploited - and most of them were given an outing here. Talia insisted that prostitution had been an upward step for her, which was difficult to judge, because you didn't know exactly what she had stepped up from, but if the job was so advantageous and untroubling you couldn't help wondering why she was so adamant about putting a time limit on her own involvement.

There are times when The Force (BBC2, 9.50pm), a series filmed with the cooperation of the Thames Valley Police, looks dangerously like Operation Good Guys, Saturday night's observational spoof. Fortunately this is an authored documentary, with reporter David Rose popping up now and then to shape the footage into a more coherent theme and drive away unhelpful associations. Last night he was considering the police's role in keeping the peace - from protecting cat-farmers against enraged animal rights activists to mopping up the streets after chucking-out time. We have become inured to the latter insanity by long familiarity (with alcohol-related disturbances taking up to 70 per cent of police time, it is almost criminal that the Government continues to demonise marijuana, a drug which would be more likely to lead to outbreaks of uncontrolled giggling than ugly street brawls). But the growth of direct action politics is a new conundrum for the police, forcing them to confront indignant old ladies alongside more traditional representatives of social upheaval, such as Dreadlock Jim - a kind of vegan Napoleon. The self-righteousness of such protestors is bottomless - a dangerous quality when combined with a police force which is uncertain about where to draw the line: "Avoiding a possible riot is more important than enforcing the letter of the law," said one officer after anti-traffic protestors had obliged his men to give up their attempt to keep a road unblocked. It may well have been the right decision at the time, but it does rather suggest that if you wish to ignore the law a plausible threat to riot is the only weapon you need.

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