It goes without saying that television has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. Still, it’s a little surprising to hear Rob Petrie saying “hell” and “damn.”

“I think some people might be (surprised),” says Dick Van Dyke, who played Rob in the classic sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and does so again in the CBS special “The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited” airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT. “I certainly questioned it at the time, but these days, a “hell’ or a “damn’ is not too shocking.”

Rob’s epithets come as a surprise to some other characters as well, like his long-time writing partner, Sally (Rose Marie). Wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) explains Rob started swearing “when we got cable.”

That gentle poke at today’s coarser pop culture comes from Carl Reiner, who created “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and wrote a new episode for “Revisited” that leads into a collection of clips from the past.

Van Dyke says Reiner wanted to let viewers catch up with the show’s characters, rather than just bring the cast together to reminisce. “He said “You know what I think we ought to do, is (show) what would their lives be like now, 40-some years later,”‘ Van Dyke says.

“I think it worked out pretty well.”

The special finds Laura running a small dance studio adjacent to her and Rob’s Manhattan apartment. Son Ritchie (Larry Matthews) occupies their old house in New Rochelle. Rob, meanwhile, is enjoying retirement and has taken up a new hobby – computer animation.

That bit of the story parallels Van Dyke’s own life. He has dabbled in animation for a number of years and calls it “an addiction.”

The animated Rob viewers see on screen during the special is his own work.

“They even gave me a credit – “Computer graphics by Dick Van Dyke,”‘ he says. “I’m very proud of that.”

Rob’s world gets upset a little when Alan Brady (Reiner), his egotistical former boss, calls to ask if he and Sally will write his eulogy. Alan’s not dying – he just wants to hear the material beforehand and make sure he comes off well at his funeral.

Van Dyke says he and Reiner had both turned down past offers to look back at “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Their thinking was “we’d rather have people remember it like it was,” he says.

“But Carl decided to do it this time – what changed his mind, I don’t know. But it sure was great getting together with everyone. It was like no time had passed at all.”

His only regret, Van Dyke says, is that they didn’t decide to do a reunion show until after cast members Morey Amsterdam, Jerry Paris and Richard Deacon had passed away.

Reruns of the show live on, however, both on television and on DVD. Van Dyke says he’s continually and pleasantly surprised by its enduring appeal.

“Even though we felt we were good and so proud of what we were doing … we never, ever dreamed that 40 years later it would still be around,” he says. “It’s remarkable. We’re on our third generation now.”

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-05-10-04 0944EDT

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