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Thursday, November 18, 2004
When MNF had much more skin

By Jim Caple
Page 2

Could someone explain the fuss over this week's opening to Monday Night Football? The one that showed "Desperate Housewives" actress Nicollette Sheridan leaping naked into the arms of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens?

Sure, it was shameless self-promotion. But how does that differ from all the "celebrity" shots we have to endure when Fox covers the World Series? And yes, we saw Sheridan's naked back -- ohhhh, how shocking -- but that shot was no more revealing than what we see every single night on every channel during prime time. Or during afternoon soap operas, for that matter.

Besides, Monday's opening was nothing compared to some of the segments that ran in the old days of Monday Night Football.

Or are you forgetting this scandalous promo?

Nov. 29, 1976: Vikings vs. 49ers at Candlestick Park

[The pregame show opens in the office of the Charles Townsend Detective Agency, where JILL MUNROE, SABRINA DUNCAN and KELLY GARRETT sit on a couch while JOHN BOSLEY turns up the speaker phone on his desk. We hear CHARLIE'S voice.]

Charlie's Angels
Cosell couldn't handle the Angels.
CHARLIE: Angels, I'm afraid I may have my toughest assignment yet for you.

KELLY: It's not worse than the time with Bosley and the diapers, is it?

CHARLIE: Yes, it's even worse than that.

SABRINA: Does it involve algorithms?

CHARLIE: No, it involves seducing a man.

JILL: Gosh, Charlie. That's no problem. We seduce a man every week.

CHARLIE: This man is ... different.

[Cut to the inside of the MNF broadcast booth, where we see the Angels, wearing only towels, grimacing as they caress HOWARD COSELL.]

COSELL: Ah, you network harlots, you shameless agents of pulchritude. Your seductive presence, though patently contrived for promotional purposes, has rendered me incapable of performing my requisite pregame introduction at its standard level of hysteric hyperbole.

SABRINA: Ooohhhh, I love it when you talk like that.

COSELL: Please, you transparent torch singers of temptation, please. Take care when running your fingers through my toupee.

[The Angels unwrap their towels.]

JILL: I've got to find a way out of my contract.

* * * * *

Of course, that promo ran back in the "If It Feels Good, Do It" days of the hedonistic '70s, when our airwaves were overloaded with tasteless jiggle shows. It's not like today, when America insists on only wholesome, educational programming that meets the highest standards of entertainment and culture. Like "Ultimate Makeover."

Times, indeed, have changed. The NFL described this week's Owens-Sheridan promo as "inappropriate and unsuitable." Excuse me? If the NFL wants to take a stand against inappropriate and unsuitable promotion, I suggest the league start with the lingerie calendars of topless cheerleaders it's currently selling on its official Web sites.

And funny how the NFL found the "Desperate Housewives" promo so offensive, but never said a single word in protest over this segment from another old Monday Night Football game ...

Dec. 2, 1985: Bears vs. Dolphins at the Orange Bowl

[The pregame show opens in the Monday Night Football production truck, where director CHET FORTE watches MacGYVER work on a control panel.]

MacGYVER: That should do it. I created a short in the circuit with a paper clip, then re-routed the signal by splicing together the problem wires with my Swiss Army Knife and a stick of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum. I also used my Little Orphan Annie Decoder Pin to feed in the proper coordinates that should enable your transponder to uplink with the ComSat satellite.

FORTE: So we'll be able to broadcast the game?

MacGyver
Quite a hairstyle for MacGyver, eh?
MacGYVER: At least for the first half. But to show the whole game, we'll need some duct tape to hold it all together.

[MacGYVER exits the truck to look for some tape. As he walks toward the stadium entrance, we see an obviously drunk JOE NAMATH, wearing nothing but his yellow MNF coat, leer at actress TERI HATCHER. She is wearing only a few strips of strategically-placed duct tape.]

NAMATH: So what do you say? Wanna tape up Broadway Joe up and have your way with him? I "guarantee" a Super night, Missy.

HATCHER: Penny. The character I play on the show is named Penny Parker.

NAMATH: Sure, sure. I know. Now, how about a little kiss, Missy?

HATCHER: It's Penny! P-E-N-N-Y! Penny!!!

NAMATH: Whatever you say.

[MacGYVER walks by and removes one of the duct tape strips.]

* * * * *

Like I said. Not a word about that segment. And now the NFL is getting all high and mighty about the "Desperate Housewives" promo? Please.

What started all this, of course, was the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl. And that really was terrible. Impressionable children and adolescents all across the nation actually saw a woman's breast exposed for less than a second. Why, people started jumping up and down so much about Janet that we could barely see the TV screen when the regularly scheduled beer commercial ran. You know, the one with the supermodels mud-wrestling in their underwear.

Sigh. It's not like the old days ...

Nov. 7, 1994: Giants vs. Cowboys at Texas Stadium

[The pregame show opens in an otherwise empty Cowboys locker room, where we see MICHAEL IRVIN putting on his helmet at his locker. As he turns to run onto the field, we hear the sultry voice of a WOMAN.]

WOMAN: Oh, Michael ...

IRVIN: What? Who is that?

Roseanne
Everyone remembers Roseanne's singing voice, right?
WOMAN: Just a very big fan of yours craving a little illegal use of hands.

IRVIN: Where are you?

WOMAN: Come find me. I'm in the shower room.

IRVIN: Wait! Don't move! I'll come get you!

WOMAN: Hurry. I'm not wearing any clothes and I'm getting very chilly.

IRVIN: Hold on! Hold on!

[IRVIN enters the shower area and looks around frantically.]

IRVIN: Am I getting warmer?

WOMAN: You're getting warmer and I'm getting hot. Very, very hot.

[Suddenly, ROSEANNE BARR, wearing only a towel, steps into view. She drops the towel, and as a look of sheer horror appears on IRVIN's face, she leaps onto him and crushes him flat.

[ROSEANNE picks herself up and walks out.]

ROSEANNE: I better hurry. They need me to sing the national anthem.

[As ROSEANNE leaves, we see ELLEN DeGENERES, wearing only slacks, a fully buttoned shirt, a blue blazer, socks and sensible shoes, on the other side of the locker room. She is peering through a peephole in the wall.]

ELLEN: Hubba, hubba. Look at those cheerleaders.

* * * * *

Obviously, a network would have its license revoked for running those promos today. But back then, they prompted such little outcry it's as if they never aired at all.

It's crazy. Look, if people want to say ABC deserves a fine for Hank Williams Jr. singing "All My Rowdy Friends" week after week, I'm right behind them. Otherwise, my advice to the prudes who were offended by Monday's promo is this: Get over it.

If not, I'll have to bring out the old clips of CBS promoting its prime-time lineup on "The NFL Today." The one with Jimmy the Greek and Rhoda is particularly upsetting, if you know what I mean.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com