U.S.-based stars winging it to Geminis

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TORONTO -- Looking to boost ratings Sunday night for the Geminis, Canada's TV awards, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. for the first time will celebrate Canadian acting talent in Los Angeles.

The public broadcaster has secured a private jet to fly Howie Mandel ("Deal or No Deal"), Andrea Roth ("Rescue Me"), Sarah Chalke ("Scrubs"), "Men in Trees" lead James Tupper and girlfriend Anne Heche, Jason Priestley and Kathleen Robertson from Los Angeles to Regina, Saskatchewan, to either contend for trophies or present at the awards telecast.

The jet will come courtesy of Jim Treliving, a businessman and panel member on the CBC's "Dragon's Den" reality TV show.

George Stroumboulopoulos, host and co-executive producer of the Canadian kudosfest, said Thursday that the public broadcaster faced a hurdle getting the busy Canadian stars to and from the Geminis in one day as there's no direct flight from Los Angeles to Regina.

"The CBC's not throwing money around on a private jet. Then we heard one of 'dragons,' one of these rich entrepreneurs, had a plane. And he said, go ahead and take it," Stroumboulopoulos said.

Also as part of this year's Geminis, the CBC has invited TV viewers to vote online for their "favorite Canadian on a TV series" not eligible for a Gemini.

It turns out all 22 Canadian actors up for the inaugural CBC award star in U.S. network series.

They include Mandel, "24's" Keifer Sutherland, Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy!," "Lost's" Evangeline Lilly, Kelly Rowan of "The O.C." and Sandra Oh from "Grey's Anatomy."

Stroumboulopoulos said shining a spotlight on Canadian stars in Hollywood in Regina this weekend is a tool to celebrate Canadian successes around the world.

"It sounds like we're being cheeky. But we're trying to demonstrate if you're working anywhere in the world, you're working in the business," he said.

Other Canadians contending for the Viewer's Choice Award include Will Arnett and Michael Cera from "Arrested Development," "Boston Legal's" William Shatner, Kristine Kreuk from "Smallville," Matthew Perry from the canceled "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and CNN's John Roberts.

Stroumboulopoulos conceded that the CBC is hoping to boost traditionally dismal viewership for Canada's TV awards with its flown-in star wattage.

"I would imagine, but that's the whole point of TV," he said.

Sunday's Gemini telecast will see Paul Gross and William Hutt of the black comedy "Slings & Arrows" challenge John Cassini and Ian Tracey from "Intelligence" and Peter Outerbridge from "ReGenesis" for the best actor crown.

The best dramatic actress contest will pit Martha Burns and Susan Coyne of "Slings & Arrows" against Klea Scott of "Intelligence."

Earlier Gemini hardware was handed out Oct. 15, 16 and 17 in Toronto during the pre-telecast galas.
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