CBC vows to heat up 'Battle of the Blades'

'The skirts are a few inches higher,' producer says

TORONTO -- Now for some dirty dancing from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

The Canadian public broadcaster, facing stiff competition Monday nights for its popular "Battle of the Blades" competition series from ABC's saucy "Dancing With The Stars" on rival CTV and Fox's "House" on Global Television, has vowed to steam up ice dancing.

"The skirts are a few inches higher, and the music is younger and sexier," series producer John Brunton of Insight Productions said ahead of this week's upcoming performance show, entitled "Bringing Sexy Back."

The CBC reality series, which has former NHL tough guys mastering graceful ice dance routines with Olympic figure skating stars, faces stiff competition on Sunday nights for its performance show against ABC's "Amazing Race" and "Desperate Housewives" on CTV and Fox's animated lineup on Global Television.

The competition only heats up with the results show. This past Monday, Global Television won the night with 2.6 million total viewers tuning in at 8 p.m. for "House," while "DWTS" grabbed a national audience of 2.44 million viewers.

"Blades" managed 1.1 million viewers for its results show Monday night, while the ice skating competition series' lead-out, the curling comedy "Men With Brooms," drew only 582,000 total viewers of the gates for the CBC.

In an industry where the ambition of every successful Canadian TV show is to look like an American show, the CBC is alone among broadcasters in dipping its top shows in maple syrup, even if it means dressing hulking hockey players in spandex and sequins and making them attempt lifts and lutzes with tiny ice queens.

"We're competing like a sonoabitch to try to be as entertaining and to be an option to pick up over other shows," Brunton said of his Monday might match-up against "House" and "DWTS."

That also means pushing the envelope with personal story-telling by the former NHL greats, including Kelly Chase talking of surviving a life-threatening brain lesion and, Theo Fleury recalling sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach, and Russ Courtnall talking about his father committing suicide when he was 12 years-old.

Brunton knows a host of other homegrown shows get softer treatment by being scheduled on Friday and Saturday nights, throwaway nights for the American networks.

But while he knows it's tough sledding against "House," he relishes the competition.

"We're among the highest rated TV shows in Canada. We have a great cast, and the production values are good," Brunton added.
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