Fox's 'House' represents; 'Mentalist' debut OK


Round 2 of broadcast premiere week goes to Fox, with the network maintaining its grip on Tuesday nights against new and returning competitors.

Fox won the night with "House" (12.4 million viewers and a 5.1 rating/14 share in the key adults 18-49 demographic) and "Fringe" (9.4 million, 4.1/10), though both received fresh battle wounds. "House" fell 9% from last week, and "Fringe" lost a chunk of last week's bounce, dropping 20%.

Among the fresh troops on rival networks were CBS' psychological procedural "The Mentalist" and the premiere of ABC's roving game show "Opportunity Knocks."

The Simon Baker-starring "Mentalist" (15.6 million, 3.5 rating/9 share) received an unremarkable debut rating that was made more impressive by the context of its time period. "Mentalist" was up significantly from the premiere of "The Unit" in the same time period last year, improving a traditionally weak slot for the network.

Plus, "Mentalist" retained almost all of its lead-in from the premiere of "NCIS" (18 million, 3.6/9), which was up slightly from last fall and marked the only returning show Tuesday to demonstrate year-to-year gains in the demo.

At 10 p.m., the premiere of "Without a Trace" (11.3 million, 2.8/7) dropped a steep 40% to a series low from its debut last year — when it ran after "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on Thursday —plus underperformed the debut of "Cane" in the time slot last year.

ABC's "Opportunity Knocks" (6.6 million, 1.8/5) was a nonstarter. The 8 p.m. game show was the lowest-rated program among the major networks. Despite the weak lead-in, the Tuesday premiere of "Dancing With the Stars" (18.3 million, 4.7/12) held up well in its second airing, losing only a tenth of a point from fall 2007, and ranked as the night's most-watched show.

With Fox in first, followed by ABC and CBS, that left NBC in fourth place, leading off with "The Biggest Loser: Families" (7.3 million, 3.0/8). The reality competition nearly matched last week's premiere. At 10 p.m., the premiere of "Law & Order: SVU" (9.7 million, 3.8/10) placed second in the hour and was down a precarious 21% from its debut in the same time period last year.

After halting its "90210" (2.9 million, 1.5/4) ratings drain last week, the CW's soap remake fell a couple of points this week, as did "Privileged" (1.8 million, 0.8/2). (partialdiff)