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5 YEARS

'Fringe' returns strong; 'Cupid' slips

107_mrjones_108After two months on hiatus, Fox's mystery thriller Fringe came back strong Tuesday night.

Exactly how strong is difficult to say, since Fox ran American Idol (22 million viewers, 7.8 preliminary adults 18-49 rating) eight minutes over into 9 p.m., muddying the numbers for both shows.

In the prelims, Fringe (12 million, 4.7) was up 15% from its last performance, though that gain will be reduced, if not erased, once the nationals roll in. Even if Fringe is flat from February, however, that's still good news for the show. Often ratings drop after such an absence, especially for newer series, plus its Idol lead-in wasn't as strong this time and it had to contend with Dancing With the Stars (14.3 million, 3.3) in the hour. As for Idol, the singing competition will gain several tenths in the nationals, though it shouldn't match last week's 8.9.

Fox won the night. CBS was second with NCIS (17.6 million, 3.6) up a tick, The Mentalist (16.8 million, 3.6) down a couple and Without a Trace (12.2 million, 2.7) down a tenth -- the lineup was on par, basically, with Mentalist and Trace ranking as the most-watched shows in their respective hours.

NBC was close behind in the demo with a two-hour Biggest Loser (8 million, 3.1) and Law & Order: SVU (9.1 million, 3.2) slightly down this week.

ABC presented It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown and Charlie Brown All-Stars (4.6 million, 1.3), doing pretty weak in the hour. But some good news at 9 p.m.: The Dancing results show seemed to stabilize, and in fact climbed a couple rungs. At 10 p.m., Cupid (6.2 million, 1.7) fell 26% from last week's premiere (and that's with a couple minutes of Dancing overrun) to place last in the hour.

The CW's Reaper (2.3 million, 0.9) slipped a notch and 90210 (2.1 million, 1.1) was steady.