Plus, ''The Daily Show'' spawns parodies, and more
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Credit: Marg Helgenberger: Monty Brinton

TOOL TIME, ‘CSI’-STYLE ”CSI” writers sure know how to party. Writers for CBS’ Thursday-night hit spent summer vacation attending a forensics convention in Las Vegas to research nifty new evidence-gathering gizmos. Among the gadgets you may see in Marg Helgenberger’s hands next season: a snazzy Super Glue wand to lift those hard-to-reach fingerprints, or a crafty crime-scene scope with a UV-powered light that detects semen in blood. But wait — there’s more! ”One company has a new portable drying closet,” says writer-producer Josh Berman. ”If you go to a crime scene and find bloodstained sheets, you can hang the sheets up in the closet to dry.” Another interesting development in the forensics field: Thanks to the grisly drama, there’s now a growing crop of William Petersen wannabes in Sin City. ”More people are interested in CSI work than ever before,” says Berman. The scribe has also come down with forensics fever: He got himself certified by the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, an organization whose members can identify what implements were used in murders. Explains Berman: ”They can figure out if someone was stabbed with a screwdriver.” Gee, that is a handy skill.

‘DAILY’ SPECIAL Finally, a TV trend that doesn’t involve eating insects. The genre du jour is fake news, thanks to ”The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. The Jon Stewart-hosted series has made huge gains in the ratings — up 59 percent in adults 18?49 compared with a year ago — and August is turning out to be its most-watched month yet this year. ”We made it onto the radar with our election coverage and the 35 days of limbo that ensued,” says executive producer Madeleine Smithberg. ”And getting a Peabody Award, a story on ”60 Minutes,” and two Emmy nominations didn’t hurt.” Now insiders say VH1 is mulling over a ”Daily Show”-like program, and CNN is considering adding a comedic show to their all-news lineup. Also, HBO recently signed Chris Rock, reportedly to produce a parody of a newsmagazine. ”I think it’s funny,” says Smithberg. ”Our format was already copied from news, so I’m flattered that someone wants to copy us copying someone else.”

AND SO ON… Apparently unconcerned that last year’s Drew Carey musical ”Geppetto” had all the charm of a block of wood, ABC will attempt another original tuner for the 2002 season. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman — the team responsible for bringing a stage version of the film ”Hairspray” to Broadway next year — will create ”Livin’ Dolls” for ”The Wonderful World of Disney.” Set in the 1960s, the musical follows a teenage ugly duckling who becomes a swan after being magically transformed into a toy doll. Like, huh? ”All I can say is, you should have heard the pitch,” explains Susan Lyne, ABC’s executive VP of movies. ”If the script is even half as good, this is going to be a big, big movie for us. I trust these guys.”