Canadian show "Battle of the Blades" picks up speed

Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:52am EDT
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By Etan Vlessing

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Talk about TV that taps into the zeitgeist. "Battle of the Blades," a new reality competition series that has hockey heroes mastering graceful ice dance routines with figure skating champs, has become a ratings winner for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Think Canada, and ice naturally comes to mind. And the CBC has scored as hockey-mad Canadians watch retired NHL greats get schooled in leading and lifting -- and, with luck, not dropping -- former Olympic female figure skaters.

No knock on Kristy Swanson and Bruce Jenner, but "Battle of the Blades" executive producer John Brunton insists the CBC series is no "Skating With Celebrities," the 2006 Fox on-ice take of ABC's hit "Dancing With the Stars" series.

Brunton said the Canadian ice dance competition series enlisted athletes who know how to stay steady on their skates.

"When Canadians watch figure skating, they want to see a high level of quality," Brunton, a veteran producer of 1990s U.S. and Canadian network figure skating shows, said.

The alchemy is getting former NHL tough guys to shed their sticks and pucks and glide like swans across the ice to earn votes and avoid elimination.

"On our show, you skate to center ice in darkness, and the lights come up and you need to remember your steps, do them in time to the music, and you don't have other people on your team to remember all that -- it's just you and your skating partner. It puts guys out of their element," Brunton said.

RATINGS HIT   Continued...