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CULTURE DIGEST: ABC apologizes for MNF opening; ‘Private Ryan’ causes concern; ‘Doc’ ends; male homecoming queen?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–ABC has apologized for airing an objectionable opening to Monday Night Football Nov. 15 after viewers complained it was yet another example of inappropriate material broadcast during a national sporting event.

The opening featured a naked Nicollette Sheridan, who stars in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” jumping into the arms of Terrell Owens, a receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles who would be taking on the Dallas Cowboys in the featured game.

“We have heard from many of our viewers about last night’s Monday Night Football opening segment, and we agree that the placement was inappropriate. We apologize,” ABC said in a statement the next day.

The NFL and the Eagles agreed that the spot was unnecessary.

“ABC’s opening was inappropriate and unsuitable for our Monday Night Football audience,” the NFL said in a statement. “While ABC may have gained attention for one of its other shows, the NFL and its fans lost.”

Though teams usually cooperate with ABC in the development of the opening segment, the Eagles said they wish the piece “hadn’t aired.”

Intended as an advertisement for Desperate Housewives, the spot showed Owens and Sheridan in an empty locker room with Sheridan wearing only a towel. She asked Owens to skip the game for her, and then she dropped the towel and jumped into his arms. She was shown only from behind and above the waist after she dropped the towel.

The Eagles’ hometown newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, said in its Nov. 17 editorial that the promo “had no business appearing on network TV at 9 p.m.”

“Lord knows how many fifth-graders begged their parents to stay up past bedtime to watch at least the first half of their beloved Eagles’ grudge match with America’s Team,” The Inquirer said. “It took ABC 30 seconds to make those parents regret it. Yes, even parents in a blue-state stronghold like Philadelphia don’t appreciate it when the football game their 10-year-olds are watching gets interrupted by a soft-porn moment.”

STATIONS CAUTIOUS OVER ‘SAVING PRIVATE RYAN’ — When ABC chose to air an unedited version of the epic World War II-based film “Saving Private Ryan” to commemorate Veteran’s Day Nov. 11, some affiliates opted not to go along.

In light of the Federal Communications Commission’s recent crackdowns on indecency, some stations — including those in Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa, Phoenix and Orlando — preempted the movie. Most of them aired the same film when ABC ran it for Veteran’s Day in 2001 and 2002, but that was before the recent boom in indecency fines.

Parents Television Council, which often leads the charge against inappropriate broadcasts, chose to endorse ABC’s showing of Saving Private Ryan.

“Context is everything,” Brent Bozell, president of PTC, said in a statement. “We agreed with the FCC on its ruling that the airing of ‘Schindler’s List’ on television was not indecent and we feel that ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is in the same category.

“In both films, the content is not meant to shock, nor is it gratuitous. We applaud ABC for letting viewers know ahead of time about the graphic nature of the film and that the film would be uncut,” Bozell added, referring to the network’s decision to run 11 advisories during the broadcast, including one at every ad break. “We will not be filing an indecency complaint with the FCC over the airing of this film.”

But Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, objected to the broadcast and urged that protests be directed to FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Perkins said the film contains sexual references and more than 40 mentions of strong curse words and should not have been aired during family viewing hours.

“If the FCC does not enforce indecency laws in this incident, its very enforcement authority will be undermined and the networks will challenge all future indecency/profanity rulings as arbitrary,” Perkins said.

PAX’S ‘DOC’ SHOW ENDING — “Doc,” the show that has been called PAX-TV’s cornerstone program, will air its series finale Nov. 28 after four seasons. The show, which gained the Parents Television Council seal of approval, stars Billy Ray Cyrus as a country doctor who moved to New York City to practice medicine and develop relationships through which he could be a positive influence.

The final episode will feature Cyrus’ character, Clint Cassidy, choosing between following an old flame back to Montana or staying in New York after his nurse’s departure to Indonesia.

Cyrus told Baptist Press’ entertainment critic Phil Boatwright that he saw Doc as a chance to spread some light in Hollywood.

“If you’re going to stand up for Jesus, your life will be a battle between light and darkness,” Cyrus said. “And for everything that God will bring into your life that represents the light, the devil — he’s such a sly fox — will come at you with two times more attributes of evil.”

After rising to stardom with his 1992 country hit “Achy Breaky Heart,” Cyrus has been vocal about his faith and has made regular appearances at Christian music’s Dove Awards.

MAN COMPETES FOR HOMECOMING QUEEN — A 21-year-old man recently walked onto a football field in a strapless dress and heels, carrying roses as a finalist for homecoming queen at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Everett Moran, a member of the school’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group called Vanderbilt Lambda Association, wanted to buck the system and become the first male to compete for a traditionally female role.

“I think at first it was just more to see what would happen — ha, ha! — thumb your nose at Vanderbilt administration and subvert the paradigm of male and female gender roles,” Michelle Penaloza, Moran’s roommate, told The Tennessean newspaper.

Observers say the school is split on whether such behavior was appropriate. Some hold to the notion that only women should be crowned queen, but others welcome the change.

“The people who supported him were really great, but there were also a lot of people that were booing [as he walked on the field],” Penaloza said. “Vanderbilt, I think, isn’t as ready for all that as we would hope.”

Moran did not win the competition, but he said just making the cut as one of 10 finalists was enough for him.

“I hope I got some people talking. I think I did,” he said.

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  • Erin Curry