Dan Snierson
May 10, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s the law of TV: For every Scrubs, there shall be four Emerils, three Wolf Lakes, and one Men, Women & Dogs. That’s why the networks are forced each spring to search near, far, and behind Chevy Chase for the hits of next season. For example, Fox has hopes for a dramedy about teen septuplets chilling in their family’s hotel. (Will they ever learn? Hotel-set dramas about teen septuplets never work!) Before the nets choose their slates, here’s a look at the fall possibilities. — Dan Snierson

Today’s lesson: overcrowding in boarding school comedies. Fox’s BS takes us inside an all-girls institution, while ABC’s Essex Prep features teachers at an all-boys academy. Meanwhile, The WB is doubling its course load with the coed Prep and St. Sass, starring Delta Burke as a socialite sentenced to work as a dorm mother. Or you could just wait for another Facts of Life reunion.

The networks are planning so many trips down memory lane, they ought to widen it into a freeway. Witness three 1960s-set series: The WB’s In My Life, a drama about a group of Louisiana boys; NBC’s Our Generation, a family drama using American Bandstand footage; and Fox’s Oliver Beene, a sitcom involving an 11-year-old boy and his dysfunctional family. For those yearning to see a man relive high school in the ’80s, check out ABC drama That Was Then—and The WB sitcom Do Over.

Back in the day, you either wrote murder or diagnosed it. Now, thanks to CSI’s success, everyone’s on the case. Get set for investigative dramas tracking diseases (ABC’s Flashpoint), phenomena (ABC’s Miracles), missing persons (CBS’ Without a Trace), and Miami crimes (NBC’s Miss Miami and the Eye’s CSI: Miami, starring David Caruso). A second CSI? What’s next—a Law & Order spin-off?

How far are networks willing to stretch comedy concepts this fall? Pretty freakin’ far. Fox’s The Pitts chronicles the world’s unluckiest family—the literal descendants of the biblical Job. Fox comedy Life on Parole follows an officer whose best friend is one of his parolees (not to be confused with CBS’ untitled Marcia Gay Harden drama, about a woman who adopts the child of one of her parolees). And ABC’s Sun Gods offers salesmen hawking…solar paneling. Because when you think photovoltaic technology, you think knee-slapper, no?

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