Campy on-ice competition 'Battle of the Blades' to return to CBC-TV
TORONTO - CBC-TV is resurrecting its campy competition series "Battle of the Blades."
The public broadcaster says eight rugged hockey players and eight figure skating stars will shimmy their way through ice dancing contests as part of the upcoming 2013-2014 broadcast lineup.
The popular elimination-style series was benched last year due to budget constraints but will return this fall with some careful tweaks, says figure skater-turned TV personality Kurt Browning.
"When the opportunity to recreate the wheel again comes your way — just because of that time off — it's interesting how you, just as creative people, you get a chance to come at it from a different angle," says Browning, who wouldn't say what exactly his role would be on the revamped show after co-hosting it for the previous three seasons.
"There will be changes."
For one thing, "Battle" will air just one night a week on Sundays, says Sandra Bezic, who served as a judge on previous seasons.
Weekly eliminations will be announced at the top of each subsequent show. The first show will be two hours long, and each episode's length will fluctuate depending on how many pairs compete that week, Bezic continues.
The cast has yet to be announced, but figure skaters will include a mix of new and past competitors, including Marie France Dubreuil. As in previous contests, the winner gets $100,000 for the charity of their choice.
"There's two years of retired players so the pool is a little bit larger," Bezic says of possible ex-NHL contenders.
Julie Bristow, executive director of unscripted programming, hints "there will be a lot of former Olympians involved." That includes hockey and figure skating veterans of the Games, she says, noting their inclusion allows CBC to also promote the upcoming Sochi Winter Games.
"We're thrilled, particularly in an Olympic year, to have the skaters and the players back," Bristow says of "Battle of the Blades."
The "Battle" plans were outlined Wednesday at a star-studded gathering at CBC headquarters, where executives laid out their fall and winter plans and Canuck celebs including "Mr. D" stars Gerry Dee and Naomi Snieckus and "Cracked" leading man David Sutcliffe hobnobbed with journalists.
CBC bosses touted a new fall cop drama called "Crossing Lines" about a police unit that specializes in cross-border crimes, and a new winter reality show called "Four Rooms" billed as "Antiques Roadshow" meets "Dragons' Den."
"Crossing Lines" features an international cast including Donald Sutherland, Marc Lavoine and William Fichtner. Reached by phone in Los Angeles, the versatile Fichtner says he was attracted to his down-and-out character — a retired New York cop now living in Amsterdam.
"I'm not a big fan of procedural shows," admits Fichtner, who points out that a good portion of "Crossing Lines" is connected thanks to three two-part episodes amid the first batch of 10.
"I don't think people tune in to a police show episode 8 because they want to see the crime of the week. What they want to see is if the characters are interesting, they want to see how the characters are reacting to the crime of the week."
Adapted from a U.K. reality series, "Four Rooms" invites average Joes to bring treasured artifacts, art and memorabilia to one of four rooms where a prospective dealer may or may not offer to take it off their hands. Sellers must then decide whether to accept the deal or try their luck in another room.
"It's a game show of sorts but you're going to have the opportunity (to see) things that are part of our history," says Bristow.
A cross-country audition tour begins in June with stops including Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Halifax.
But the centrepiece of CBC's winter schedule will be coverage of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, running Feb. 7 to 23.
CBC sportscaster Ron MacLean says longstanding Canada-Russia rivalries in hockey and figure skating, especially, will make for exciting match-ups.
"To go into Sochi where you know they are arming themselves to try and have a very successful Games, like we did in Vancouver, that'll be tremendous to watch," says MacLean.
Sports personality Scott Russell adds that security will likely be a big issue throughout the international event.
"We're in kind of a hot zone there — Chechnya is an issue and we're not far from the Georgian border and it's certainly an all-pervasive issue," says Russell.
"I know it will be very tight but I know that logistically they're very much in control of what they're doing."
The nine-hour time difference between Toronto and Sochi also means most key contests will take place at 10 a.m. ET, with prime time hours dominated by pre-taped highlights.
"Fortunately for the viewer, everything's happening during the day so it's not like Nagano where we had primetime hockey at 4 a.m." MacLean says, referring to the 1998 Games in Japan. "But it'll be a challenge for what we call our prime time telecast."
The rest of the CBC lineup includes two book adaptations — a winter miniseries based on Terry Fallis' political satire "Best Laid Plans," and a fall TV movie based on Quebec crime writer Louise Penny's debut novel "Still Life."
Returning series include "Arctic Air," "Murdoch Mysteries," "Republic of Doyle," "Mr. D," "Dragons' Den" and "Heartland." Rookie drama "Cracked" also returns, but with a new co-star to join Sutcliffe.
CTV, Global and City are expected to reveal their lineups in early June.