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HUCKABY: Resident expert on the evolution of television

The Internet is really something, isn't it? And people thought Interstate 75 shrank the country! We are all connected now, y'all.

Last Monday evening I had settled in for a night of television — "House," "24" and "Castle" followed by the TiVoed highlights of Erin Andrews dancing — when the telephone rang.

Now I will make an admission here. I used to like to talk on the telephone, and there have been times in my life when I have suffered from the dreaded "black-cord fever," which is an unreasonable desire to talk on the phone late into the night. Not so much anymore, though. In fact, I seldom even pick up the phone when it rings. They have machines for that now and if its someone you want to speak with, you can call them back. If not, you can claim one of the kids erased the message before you heard it.

But I am probably telling tales out of school.

At any rate, the phone rang Monday night, and I took a chance and picked up. I said "hello" and everything and didn't even look at the caller ID to see who was on the other end. It was really quite a bold move, all things considered. It could have been anybody, from a bill collector to a congressman to someone wanting to tell me about the book their Aunt Ethyl's boyfriend's cousin needed help getting published.

This time, however, it was none of the above. This time it was a very polite young lady who identified herself as Katie. Katie was calling from the Bedford School in Bedford, Mass. I don't know exactly where Bedford is, but I know it is a long way from Porterdale. Now this is where the Internet thing comes in. Katie was calling to ask if she could interview me for a school project. It seems that she had run across some of my columns on the Internet and thought that I would be the perfect person to ask about how television had influenced society.

I have no idea what she read that gave her such keen insight into my expertise, but Katie was, as I said, a very polite young lady so I told her I would be happy to answer her questions — so long as she didn't have a book on the subject she wanted me to help her get published.

I'm here to tell you, Katie had a lot of questions — and I bet when she got to the Bedford School on Tuesday morning, she told all her friends that the newspaper guy down in Georgia had lots and lots of long answers.

First she wanted to know what television was like when I was a kid. I started with "I Love Lucy" and then moved through "Father Knows Best," "Leave it to Beaver," "The Mickey Mouse Club" and the "Red Skelton Show." Before I could get around to "My Little Margie" and "My Friend Flicka," I had to pause for a breath and Katie took advantage of the brief pause to ask me a different question.

"How is television different today?"

I had plenty to say about that topic. I told her about Lucy being forbidden to stand sideways on screen when she was pregnant with Little Ricky and how Dick Van Dyke wasn't allowed to sleep in the same bed with Mary Tyler Moore even though they were married — or at least Robert and Laura Petrie were — and then I contrasted that with the complete lack of moral fiber depicted in most of today's shows. I can't remember everything I mentioned, but I am pretty sure that "Cougar Town," "Modern Family," and "Desperate Housewives" found their way into the conversation.

And then I brought up George Carlin and his list of the "seven words you can't say on television" and how Carlin had commented just before he died that the list was "now down to two — well, one if you're a white guy."

Katie wanted to know what the words were, but I told her to look them up on the Internet.

Then she asked me if I thought television was having a negative impact of social mores.

I had a field day with that one. I talked about all the shows where people were cohabitating and the ones where casual sex was the norm and where people were considered unnatural if they were in a committed heterosexual relationship. I talked about the nudity that was the norm and about all the risqué banter that takes place on a regular basis during family viewing time — and how that was just the commercials.

And then Katie asked me about violence on TV and whether that had an impact on behavior.

I wanted to answer her, too. I really did. But it was time for "24," and I was pretty sure Jack Bauer was going to cut the Russian terrorist's stomach open and kill all of the evil operatives, and I didn't want to miss that.

So I wished Katie well and went back to the boob tube. I was not disappointed. Jack rocked Monday night.

And the next time the phone rings, I might answer it again — at least if a Massachusetts area code comes up on the caller ID. I ain't taking a chance that somebody's aunt's boyfriend's cousin needs help getting published.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.