His earlier 10 p.m. timeslot isn’t the only new thing about Jay Leno’s nightly NBC show, premiering Sept. 14. Car maven Leno built a racetrack next to his new set, and he’ll challenge his guests to a race a couple of times a week in the Green Car Challenge. Ford is supplying electric Focus models outfitted with in-car cameras and microphones. “All celebrities talk about being green. We want to see who is green and fast,” Leno tells MNN. He got the idea from the attention he’d get -- especially from women -- whenever he drove one of his electric or hydrogen-cell vehicles (which he parks in a solar-paneled garage) to work. “It’ll be fun to see if Shaquille O’Neal is faster than Cameron Diaz,” says Leno, noting that Tom Cruise requested a practice run -- and was denied. “Nobody gets to practice,” he warns. Drew Barrymore has already accepted the challenge, and Leno would love to get race enthusiast Patrick Dempsey. No word yet on whether first guest Jerry Seinfeld will get behind the wheel.

Although the host says it “will have a different feel to it,” The Jay Leno Show will retain some familiar elements of Leno’s Tonight Show -- monologue, comedy bits, interviews, comedian stand-ups and music performances -- but will feature some new correspondents including D.L. Hughley and Brian Williams. Leno thinks his timeslot will be a draw for A-listers. “Ten o’clock will be a better position to talk about whatever they want to talk about.” They’ll be sitting on leather-free couches. Leno notes that the new set was constructed from recycled materials and fabrics.


“There are water fountains all around and recycling bins so it makes it fairly easy to remain green while we’re working,” says Deborah Ann Woll, who plays Jessica Hamby on HBO’s True Blood, which has its second season finale Sept. 13. Woll has had a blast sinking her teeth into her vampire character, even though her fake fangs can be dangerous. “It’s a little hard kissing with them in. I have to be very careful.” Even so, the “balance between sweetness and danger” is fun to play. “I’m a very reserved person so to get on set and be totally crazy and wild is the greatest.” Look for her in an episode of Law & Order this season.

Woll’s co-star Sam Trammell (pictured right), who plays shape-shifting barkeep Sam Merlotte, is a surfer who actively supports the Surfrider Foundation, which “helps preserve the ecological integrity of beaches and the ocean. I’m very much interested in preserving state and national parks, specifically beaches and the ocean,” says the actor, who’ll play a shrink in the romantic comedy Shrinking Charlotte, due out in January.


The newest example of bloodsucker-themed entertainment, The CW’s Vampire Diaries, is also making an effort to be green on set. “We all have bottles with our names on them,” says Nina Dobrev (Degrassi) who plays the heroine Elena. “We have different bins for trash and recycling -- it’s all separated. And they don’t send us scripts. It’s all online. We have hard copies on set, but that’s it.” Bulgaria-born, Canada-raised Dobrev had just moved to Los Angeles when she got cast and learned she’d have to relocate to Atlanta for the show, but deemed it worth it for the plum part, especially in this genre. “I love Twilight and I’m obsessed with True Blood,” she confesses. “Vampires are people with special abilities, who are sexy and scary,” she explains. “You always want what you can’t have.”

Ian Somerhalder (Lost) plays vengeful vampire Damon in Diaries, “a very dynamic, complicated character [with] reasons for everything he does. His violence and brutality stems from someplace,” says Somerhalder, who finds that the character’s super-strength and special powers “gives you a lot of things to play with. As an actor, you dream of stuff like that.” Lost fans will be pleased to learn that he’ll reappear on the show in its final season, though he has no clue how he’ll figure into the story. Even if it’s a quick turnaround flight to Hawaii because of his Diaries schedule, Somerhalder looks forward to going back to the beach -- he lives in the pedestrian-friendly Santa Monica/Venice Beach area when he’s in California. “The only time I drive is when I go to Whole Foods or the dry cleaner,” he says. “When you decrease your carbon footprint, not only are you helping, but you just feel so much better.”

Somerhalder will play another villain in the “contemporary assassin movie” The Tournament and “a really sweet advertising executive” in How to Make Love to a Woman, both releases TBA. The Vampire Diaries premieres Sept. 10 at 8 p.m.


As Jennifer Sutton on ABC Family’s Lincoln Heights, Nicki Micheaux parents three teenagers, but off screen she’s the mother of a nearly 5-year-old and an infant, born in June, and she plans to make his baby food from scratch, as she did for her daughter. “It’s so much healthier, it doesn’t have all those preservatives,” notes Micheaux, who buys organic spinach, red bell peppers, lettuce and tomatoes and totes them home in reusable bags. “It’s really easy. You blend up the green beans, put it in an ice cube tray and freeze it, and you can put it in the microwave or in a jar when you go out and it melts on the way.”

Life on Lincoln Heights is a lot more complicated. Due to severe earthquake and fire damage to their home, the Suttons are crammed into an apartment, waiting for a FEMA check as the fourth season begins. “My father is still trying to get us out of the neighborhood and into something better. So do we stay here? Is it worth it? How much is this community worth to us and to our kids?” Micheaux outlines. Those kids, she adds, “are getting older and a lot more mischievous now, hormones raging out of control. Some of the stuff they’re doing is so disobedient.” Every parent’s nightmare? Find out Sept. 14 at 8 p.m.


“We switched to no plastic bottles on set. It’s a step in the right direction,” says Robert Buckley, who has joined One Tree Hill this season as Clayton, a sports agent representing Nathan Scott. Buckley, best known as the younger paramour of Kim Raver on Lipstick Jungle and Heather Locklear in the TV movie Flirting With 40, will have several love interests he won’t name, but notes, “They’re a little bit closer to my age.” One Tree Hill’s seventh season premiere airs Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. on The CW.


After five years as Oprah Winfrey’s medical expert, cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz is launching his own syndicated show Sept. 14, dispensing useful medical information five days a week (not competing with Oprah in any markets). Given the obesity epidemic in this country, it’s no surprise that one of his mandates is to promote healthy eating -- which also happens to be green. “I eat in season,” he says. “The blueberries right now are spectacular. But I don’t eat them in January because they’re from Chile.” He buys local produce from Fairway Market on Manhattan’s west side and frequents farmers markets. “There’s one near Columbia and one at 30 Rock, where the ice skating rink is. It might be slightly more expensive than you find in the store but it was harvested yesterday.”


Fifty years ago there were half a million beekeepers in the United States. Today there are less than 1,600 because honeybees are dying at an alarming rate from a mysterious killer known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Is it stress? A virus? One thing is certain: If bees cease to exist, which scientists predict will happen by 2035 if populations continue to decline at the present rate, it will have a disastrous effect on agriculture and the ecosystem. Following the stories of three beekeepers and their struggles to deal with this crisis, The Last Beekeeper premieres on Planet Green on Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.

The third season of Green Porno, a series of short films in which Isabella Rossellini explores (and demonstrates) the reproductive lives of sea creatures, will premiere online on Sept. 14, followed by the TV premiere at 8 p.m. on Sept. 21. A companion book will hit stores on Sept. 22.

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Additional photo credits: Sam Trammell by Steven Lippman/HBO; Nicki Micheaux by Bob D'Amico/ABC Family; Dr. Oz by David M. Russell/Harpo, Inc.

Ecollywood: Jay Leno's new nightly show has eco-racetrack outside studio
Plus: The vampires of 'True Blood' and 'Vampire Diaries' love green, not red. And Dr. Oz has some fresh produce tips for you.