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Dropped-Towel Skit Earns Scolding but No Penalty for ABC

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page C01

"Desperate Housewives" actress Nicollette Sheridan did not violate decency standards when she exposed her back in a skit that opened a "Monday Night Football" broadcast, the Federal Communications Commission announced yesterday.

Even so, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps couldn't resist the urge to spank Sheridan and "MNF" broadcaster ABC, in a separate statement.

Mario Vazquez, at right in the back row, has pulled out of the "American Idol" competition, citing "personal reasons." (Ray Mickshaw -- Fox Via Reuters)

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The Nov. 15, 2004, segment before the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game sparked many complaints to the FCC, which yesterday unanimously decided that it did not violate the law.

The skit, "although sexually suggestive, is not graphic or explicit," the FCC wrote -- with some sadness, we think -- in its announcement denying the complaints.

The segment also involved Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens, who "is fully dressed . . . and, with the exception of a moment when her bare back is exposed to the audience, Sheridan is at all times fully covered with a towel," the FCC wrote. "No sexual or excretory organs are shown or described, and no sexual activities are explicitly depicted or described. Furthermore, the scene where Sheridan drops her towel and jumps into Owens's arms is brief."

And, the FCC continued, "[a]lthough the scene apparently is intended to be titillating, it simply is not graphic or explicit enough to be indecent under our standard."

For those of you who missed ABC's promotional skit, which aired during the November ratings sweeps, Owens is fully suited for the game and in the locker room when Sheridan appears, as serial seductress Edie Britt, "Desperate Housewives' " most desperate character. Wearing only a towel, she apparently has just taken a shower and explains that her house recently burned down, as it did in the pilot episode of the hit series.

We could tell you what happened next but, really, the FCC's explanation is a much better read:

Sheridan, wearing only a towel, seeks to seduce Owens.

After he rebuffs her advances, telling her the game is about to start and his team needs him, she drops her towel.

(Here's where children should stop reading.)

The camera shows her from the back, nude from the waist up. The viewer cannot see her body below the waist.

He responds: "Aw, hell, the team's going to have to win without me" and then she leaps into his arms.

Yes, ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co., broadcast a woman's naked back. At 9 p.m. Eastern Time, 8 p.m. Central Time. When millions of parents have plunked their kids down in front of the set thinking their babes are only going to see men pounding each other, beer commercials and Viagra ads.

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