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May 27, 2010   |   By Canadian Press with files from Jeff Beer   |   Marketing Daily


Former NHL star Theo Fleury is set to lace up for the upcoming season of Battle of the Blades.

He'll join Russ Courtnall and six other hockey stars for a second go-round of the kitschy CBC reality show, which begins Sept. 26.

Fleury recently made headlines for alleging sexual abuse at the hands of former coach Graham James and has struggled with alcohol addiction in the past. Blades executive producer John Brunton said Fleury will be a strong competitor on the show.

"It's a great opportunity, Battle of the Blades, to kind of reinvent yourself and it's a great opportunity to be seen by the Canadian public in a different light than what you've necessarily been seen as," he said.

"My hope for this is that it brings some excitement and some fun to a life that's been very dark and very troubled at times and that he has a great opportunity to have as much fun as we have doing the show."

Courtnall said that when he asked Wayne Gretzky if he should do the show or not, The Great One was enthusiastic in his response. "He said, 'You gotta do it' and just told me how great an opportunity it was," said Courtnall. When asked what made him most nervous about becoming a figure skater, Courtnall replied simply, "The toe-pick."

CBC announced the Battle of the Blades competitors as it revealed a fall lineup light on new programming but heavy with returning shows. The new season will be anchored by a sitcom based on the Paul Gross curling film, Men With Brooms and a reality series starring Debbie Travis that will profile unsung heroes across the country.

Returning programs include The Ron James Show, Being Erica, The Tudors, Rick Mercer Report, Heartland, and Dragons' Den. George Stroumbolopolous said audiences can look forward to some big changes at The Hour next season, but he wouldn't reveal any of them, saying, "You'll just blog about it."

"Let's put it this way, the reason people have new shows is because the old shows aren't working," said Richard Stursberg, executive VP, English Services about having just two new shows. "That's the truth, because if you have shows that are working, you're not going to change them because everybody likes them. In a way, it's nice to have very few new shows because it means the ones you have are going great."

The new season of Battle will also include newly retired pairs skater Anabelle Langlois, and returning figure skaters Shae-Lynn Bourne and Christine Hough-Sweeney.

Meanwhile, Men With Brooms joins CBC's Monday-night lineup Sept. 20. The single-camera comedy is about a group of friends who hang out at the same small-town curling club that was featured in the 2002 movie.

The debut features a cameo appearance by Gross, who resumes his role as curling star Chris Cutter, but direct tie-ins to the original film ends there, said writer Paul Mather.

"It's set in the same small town, it's got the same kind of spirit of the movie but what I keep saying is, it's a little bit like Star Trek: The Next Generation," said Mather.

"We're not going out of our way to reinvent anything but we're not matching the art design of the original film. We're taking some license with that."

Shooting begins in Winnipeg at the end of June and goes through August. Curling scenes will be shot at an actual rink, the Fort Rouge Curling Club.

CBC-TV's general manager, Kirstine Stewart, announced the fall schedule at a splashy event at CBC headquarters attended by celebrities including Being Erica star Erin Karpluk, The National's Peter Mansbridge and Battle co-host Kurt Browning.

Travis' hour-long series, All for One, follows the design guru as she goes coast to coast, providing an "inspiring look at the individuals who go above and beyond, pouring their heart and souls into the community."

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