'Border' bows big for CBC

4:00 AM PST 01/09/2008 by Etan Vlessing, AP

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TORONTO -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has hit ratings paydirt with "The Border," touted as Canada's answer to "24."

The newest drama from the public broadcaster drew an impressive 710,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data, when it bowed Monday night against ABC's "Dance Wars: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann" on rival CTV.

"We're thrilled. The one-hour drama genre is a very hard nut to crack in Canada and these numbers are a real indicator of success," said Kirstine Layfield, CBC executive director of network programming.

In a domestic TV arena roughly a tenth the size of the U.S. market, homegrown dramas are considered a hit when they reach 1 million viewers.

"The Border," which stars James McGowan and Sofia Milos as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent based in Canada, portrays an elite force of Toronto-based immigration and customs officers battling the threat of terrorism and human trafficking among other challenges along the Canadian-U.S. border.

The CBC got a leg up with its launch of "The Border" when "24," which has traditionally drawn big numbers on rival Global Television, was pulled by Fox from its schedule during the current WGA strike.

The Canadian drama, which is executive produced by Peter Raymont, a veteran Canadian documentary filmmaker-turned-drama producer, has already been sold to France and other international markets.

For its part, Global Television plans its own border security drama. "The Guard," which portrays four offbeat Canadian search and rescue officers at work along the Canadian-U.S. border, is set for a March debut.

And CTV is developing "The Sniper," an ensemble drama set in the world of the Strategic Response Unit, an elite Canadian police force that deals with gangs and hostage crises on a daily basis.

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