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Madden couldn't find time to do skit

ABC's first choice for the infamous "Monday
Night Football" dropped towel episode wasn't Terrell Owens -- it
was announcer John Madden.

For reasons that are unclear, Madden couldn't find the time to
perform for the skit. Owens filled in for him in the steamy sketch that drew viewer protests
and a network apology, said ABC entertainment president Stephen
McPherson on Sunday.

In the spoof that preceded the football game Nov. 15,
"Desperate Housewives" actress Nicollette Sheridan persuaded
Owens to skip the game by dropping the towel wrapped around her and
jumping into his arms.

ABC initially thought it would be funny to have the, uh, less
attractive Madden as the subject of Sheridan's ardor, McPherson
said.

The towel-dropping was another last-minute addition to the
script that plainly backfired, said Marc Cherry, executive producer
of "Desperate Housewives," who helped write it.

Cherry said it was all a mistake. But he and McPherson both said
they were surprised at the reaction.

"I feel really bad about it," Cherry said. "I didn't want to
upset people. I didn't realize that 'Monday Night Football' was
such a family viewing experience. I wouldn't let my 5-year-old
watch beer commercials with big-busted cheerleaders, but that's
just me."

Sheridan, appearing before television writers Sunday, said the
purpose was simply to amuse people.

"Taking a pop culture incident like that and having it take
precedence over the underlying problems of the world was absurd,"
Sheridan said.