CBC won't be left out in cold during Olympics

Winter sports-themed shows to air while CTV carries Games

Not to be outdone by the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Olympic Games on rival CTV, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is set to roll out winter sports-themed TV programming.

The Canadian pubcaster has ordered a sitcom pilot from E1 Television and Serendipity Point Films based on the popular Canadian curling movie "Men With Brooms," the directorial debut for actor Paul Gross ("Due South").

The 2002 homegrown comedy starred Gross, Leslie Nielsen and Molly Parker as part of a curling team reuniting to capture the national trophy. Gross will share executive producer credits on the CBC pilot and co-star, while Paul Mather ("Corner Gas") will pen the script about four regular joes hanging out at the local curling rink.

"Curling is something everyone in Canada is familiar with, a strange sport in quirky rinks where people can come and go and tell different stories," Mather said of the sitcom's premise.

Kirstine Stewart, general manager of CBC Television, added the "Men With Brooms" inspired comedy aims to exploit a built-in audience from the successful feature.

The CBC recently passed on another curling pilot, "Throwing Stones," a dramedy from Original Pictures about four working class women as friends in a Winnipeg curling club that starred Patty Duke, Lolita Davidovich, Caroline Neron, Stephanie Mills, Barbara Radecki.

The CBC also will air beginning Oct. 4 "Battle of the Blades," a reality competition series that pairs top female figure skaters with retired NHL players in a skating pairs competition.

The hook is the women teach the pro hockey players, including former NHL enforcers Tie Domi and Bob Probert, how to dance with grace and emotion on ice.

The reality series, executive produced by John Brunton ("Canadian Idol"), will be shot live at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Stewart said the CBC, which already airs NHL games and international figure skating competitions, had access to athletes from both sports, and the expertise to pull the entertainment series off.

The CBC also is partnering with Shaftesbury Films on the one-hour action-adventure pilot "Tangled," to be structured as an international co-production and to feature a female lead. Phil Bedard and Larry Lalonde ("The Listener") are showrunning the pilot.

The CBC was outbid by rival CTV for the exclusive Canadian rights to the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010. CTV has rolled out a host of thematic programming tied to the Games, including the MTV snowboard reality series "Over the Bolts" and "Peak Season," a portrait of twentysomethings living in Whistler, British Columbia.

Hockey, figure skating and snowboarding are expected to be the three highlight sports of the 2010 Olympics, where Canadian athletes have the best chance to secure medals and media attention.