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'NCIS' and 'Mentalist' strong; '90210,' 'SVU' down

September 24, 2008 | 12:52 pm

Tuesday, the second night of the fall TV season, saw strong performances from some old reliables, including a healthy sixth-season premiere for CBS' "NCIS," plus a decent opening for CBS' new cop drama "The Mentalist." But NBC ran into serious trouble with its "Biggest Loser"-led lineup, and ABC flopped with Ashton Kutcher's latest unscripted project, "Opportunity Knocks."

"NCIS" (17.7 million total viewers) enabled CBS to eke out a narrow win for the night, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research. "The Mentalist" (15.5 million), about a former psychic who turns to police work, retained 85% of the "NCIS" lead-in, which is about as good a result as CBS could expect. At 10 p.m., though, "Without a Trace" looked peaked as it was wheeled in for a seventh season with a weak 11.4 million viewers. 

Fox won the night among adults aged 18-49, thanks largely to "House" (12.1 million viewers overall, 4.9 rating/14 share in 18-49). The medical drama is clearly helping the sci-fi thriller "Fringe" (9.6 million, 4.2/10), which struggled without a good lead-in. But moving "House" up one hour is taking a toll, because there are fewer viewers available to watch a drama early in the evening. The series is down considerably compared with last season, when it ran at 9 p.m. following "Bones."

ABC had the night's most-watched show with "Dancing with the Stars" (18.2 million). But the network's nightly performance was marred by "Opportunity Knocks," a family-oriented reality show that descended to a miserable 6.6 million total viewers (1.8/5 in 18-49).

NBC devoted two hours to "The Biggest Loser 6: Families," which placed fourth in the time slot in both total viewers (7.2 million) and 18-49 (2.9/8). "Law & Order: SVU" arrived for its 10th season with a record-low premiere rating (3.7/10 in 18-49).

The increased competition seemed to take a bite out of CW's new teen soap "90210," which slid 15% in its core women aged 18-34 category (2.8/8) compared with last week's episode.

-- Scott Collins