NBC Goes Green for a Week

Most sitcom creators are thrilled if they snare a movie star or big TV celebrity for a guest appearance. NBC's "30 Rock" has the guest star coup of the season -- former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore on Thursday, Nov. 8.

Gore taped his role before receiving the Nobel honoring his work on the environment. Although at this writing, NBC wouldn't officially confirm or deny his presence, Gore's Nashville office confirmed it, and an executive producer of "30 Rock" chatted about how "very generous with his time" the former vice president was.

"It was a question of calling in a lot of favors," co-executive producer Robert Carlock says. "He has some of the best comic timing. He hosted 'SNL.' He knows his way around a joke."

David Schwimmer also guest stars on this episode as an actor who becomes the face of GE's green initiative.

"By not taking it too seriously, it is a way to bridge, for people who perhaps think of it is as a dry topic, and hopefully both the vice president and David can help show people it's not necessarily that," Carlock says.

In May, NBC announced that its corporate entities would push a "Green Is Universal" agenda this week. For TV viewers, it means that NBC shows airing Sunday Nov. 4 through Saturday, Nov. 10, feature the environment as plots, or at least as an issue.

Though the network did not have review copies available, scripts, descriptions of shows and interviews with actors, writers and producers reveal a commitment to the idea. Sometimes it's done very well through jokes, such as this exchange from Thursday's "Scrubs."

Ted (Sam Lloyd): "Hey, didn't you leave your engine running?"

Janitor (Neil Flynn): "Yep. That way I can keep the air conditioner on all day so it's nice and cool when I drive home. Sometimes I have to gas up during my lunch break, but it's worth it. Nobody likes a hot van."

Ted tells him he must see "An Inconvenient Truth" and that it will change his life. Though the Janitor can't imagine any film affecting him as much as "The Karate Kid," Gore's Oscar-winning documentary changes him. He volunteers to become the hospital's environmental officer. Since it doesn't cost adminstrator Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) anything, the Janitor is so anointed.

Soon the Janitor, who apparently has no name, makes rules such as telling people they have to drink the mop water if they leave a drinking fountain running.

"The Janitor periodically gets behind certain causes whether they are rational or not," says Flynn of his character. "He is insistent or influential even if it is something absurd. He acquires a sash, a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout sash with a few dozen emblems of environmental causes, all actual organizations."

The green push has made it onto the "Scrubs" set, where scripts are now printed on both sides of the page. Considering each script undergoes three or four revisions and scores of copies are made, this saves considerable paper.

If any one show presents a challenge to being eco-friendly, it's "Las Vegas."

"We actually say this on the episode, 'Las Vegas is not green, and if it were, it would not be Las Vegas,'" says Gary Scott Thompson, creator and executive producer.

In Friday's episode, the Montecito hosts a convention for environmentalists, and Delinda (Molly Sims) wants the hotel to be more eco-friendly.

"She tries to get them to green the rooms and shut the waterfall and get a hybrid fleet, which is not cost efficient for them," Thompson says. "She and Danny (Josh Duhamel) get into a fight over it, and she tells him, 'Why don't you just conserve energy by not coming home and sleeping on your couch in the office?' "

As daunting as it was to envision Vegas green, it was also a challenge for Rand Ravich and Far Shariat, executive producers and writers of Wednesday's "Life." They needed to weave environmentalism into the show about a detective who spent 12 years in prison, wrongly convicted of murder.

"The area that we explored was solar power and turning light into energy," Ravich says. "Charlie (Damian Lewis) has a dream about solar power in which he sees a field covered with solar panels, and the idea of turning light into energy is wildly appealing to him."

Ravich says he's pleased with how naturally the eco theme works, "because it dovetails who we always imagined Charlie Crews to be. He is looking toward the light and looking to make things better, and there is something very interesting about solar power, very basic and very Zen-like."

On the set of "Life," they're recycling batteries, given that production goes through so many, Shariat says.

On the set of "ER," Maura Tierney, who plays Abby Lockhart, suggested the actors reuse the medical gloves, which they're constantly tossing.

The Thursday "ER" episode also features a Gore reference, written a month before he won the prize. Abby needles Frank (Troy Evans) about his wasteful ways, saying, "The truth is very inconvenient."

In this episode, "Blackout," an energy consultant checks how the hospital manages its resources during a heat wave. Morris (Scott Grimes) has a new Smart Car, and Neela (Parminder Nagra) teaches an intern how to drive it. As Morris runs after them, screaming directions, he's flattened when a guy opens the door of a Hummer.

"I love the irony of that joke," Grimes says. "I am running after a Smart Car, and the giant of all giant SUVs hits me."

"I'm surprised it hasn't been done before this," Grimes says of the green themes. "Anything we can do is important. I think NBC is doing it in a good way, not jumping down anyone's throat. Not preaching, just telling it like it is."

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