NBC gives new meaning to the phrase "green screen" next week, spreading a pro-environmental message across five of its prime-time entertainment programs.
"30 Rock," where Al Gore takes a cameo role, leads the way. Environmental themes were also added to the scripts of "The Biggest Loser," "The Office," "Heroes" and "Community."
NBC Universal's three-year "green" campaign has largely focused on off-camera issues like making company facilities more eco-friendly. News and information programs have also been enlisted to do stories on environmental issues, but except for one "30 Rock" episode two years ago, the campaign hasn't touched the prime-time lineup.
This year on "30 Rock," corporate boss Jack Donaghy tells the late-night show's staff it has to cut its carbon footprint by 5 percent, and puts Kenneth the Page in charge of getting it done.
"It's something that is relatable and is something that a lot of people are doing," said Jack McBrayer, the actor who portrays Kenneth.
Backstage, the show has done its part by removing water bottles in favor of water filters and using chemical-free cleaning products. The show rents hybrid vehicles to transport its actors and crew members, said Beth Colleton, vice president of the "Green is Universal" campaign.
"Everybody is on board with greening up the place and being more environmentally-friendly in real life," McBrayer said. "Every now and then people need to be reminded of things that can be done."
In the comedy "Community," the college is renamed "Environdale." College students think they're hiring the band Green Day for a gig, and instead gets the Celtic combo Greene Daeye. Dwight in "The Office" takes the role of "Recyclops" in that comedy. "Heroes" features cast members filling a truck with recyclables and talking about the importance of giving back to the earth.
Trainers on "The Biggest Loser" will instruct their clients to buy organic produce and bring their own mugs to the coffee shop.
Colleton said there was no attempt to be heavy-handed and interfere with the creative process.
"We make sure we don't dictate to the show," she said. Producers decide the best way to absorb the message in a way that's appropriate for their audiences, she said.
NBC News is also involved next week. The "Today" show will have a series on cost-efficient ways for families to live greener lives. Anne Thompson will do environmental stories from Greenland, Denmark and Arizona on "Nightly News," and David Gregory will bring up the topic on "Meet the Press."
Activities on NBC Universal's cable properties include hosts on The Weather Channel advising viewers to turn down their thermostats.
Green screens, by the way, are blank screens on news sets upon which video or maps are projected.
NBC and NBC Universal are units of General Electric Co.