ABC’s first choice for the Monday Night Football dropped towel sketch 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, the Philadelphia Eagles receiver, filled in for him in the steamy sketch that drew viewer protests and a network apology, ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson said.

In the spoof preceding the Nov. 15 football game, “Desperate Housewives” costar Nicollette Sheridan persuaded Owens to skip the game by doffing her towel and jumping bare-bodied into his arms.

The towel-dropping was another last-minute addition to the script that plainly backfired, said Marc Cherry, Golden Globe-winning creator of “Desperate Housewives,” this season’s hottest new show. Cherry, who helped write the skit, 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.

– Knight Ridder Newspapers

Drescher speaks from experience

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Fran Drescher draws liberally from real-life experience in her upcoming comedy series, “Living With Fran.”

The 47-year-old actress portrays an older woman who dates a man in his 20s. Drescher herself dated a man 16 years her junior for four years.

One episode echoes a scene where her boyfriend’s father and stepmother came over for a visit and the stepmom was two years younger than Drescher. She rifled through her closet to find something tie-dyed to look younger.

In another show, Drescher learns that the live-in boyfriend is secretly hanging on to his old apartment in case something goes wrong.

“In the series, eventually he gives up the apartment by the end of the episode because our love is true,” she told reporters. “In real life, he kept the apartment and now he’s back in it.”

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