Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that NBC, apparently incapable of producing compelling scripted television not named The Office or 30 Rock, has nuked its entire 10 PM primetime lineup (and effectively thrown Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show under the bus) on the gamble that Jay Leno can carry that hour every weeknight. The Jay Leno Show indeed debuted to boffo numbers on Monday (18 million viewers), and went on to win the 10 PM timeslot for NBC every other night as well. (The real competition starts this week, as the other nets roll out their new Fall schedules.) On Friday, 7.7 million viewers witnessed the first edition of the much-hyped Green Car Challenge segment, a regular feature of the Leno show that will put a celebrity guest behind the wheel of an electric Ford Focus ST to see how quickly he or she can run two laps of the circuit painted on the backlot behind Leno's soundstage.
First up was Drew Barrymore, who explained to Jay that she was currently without a driver's license as she clicked into the racing harness in the driver's seat. The segment goes like this: lap one is unobstructed -- the celeb simply tries to get around the course as quickly as possible in the electric Ford Political Correctness Capsule. Lap 2 adds a healthy dose of lameness, with dangling cardboard cutouts of Al Gore and Ed Begley Jr. that try to impede the driver's progress. These are to be avoided if the celebrity doesn't want to take a 1-second penalty for each strike. (We're hoping someone aims right for the stupid things in a future segment.) In addition to tree-hugger avoidance maneuvers, the second lap also features cannons that shoot ping-pong balls and party streamers at the car. It's about as dopey as it sounds, and despite all the hoopla (NBC has the Goodyear Blimp capturing the overhead shots, for crying out loud) it just comes off as a cheap imitation of Top Gear's "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car", which, of course, it is. Watch and judge for yourselves after the jump, where the segment is embedded in a Hulu player.