Brainstorm! "The Mentalist" looked sharp for CBS in its debut Tuesday. If this keeps up, CBS might get a little relief on a night that has been tricky for the Eye in recent years.
"Mentalist," starring the ever-charming Simon Baker, opened to 15.5 million viewers and 3.5 rating/9 share in the adults 18-49 demo, per prelim Nielsens. The procedural from Warner Bros. TV and former "Rome" scribe Bruno Heller proved a thoughtful fit with 8 p.m.'s "NCIS." "Mentalist" held the bulk of of its "NCIS" lead-in (17.9 mil, 3.5/10) and hung tough against Fox's competing "Fringe" (9.7 mil, 4.2/10) in the demo.
The story wasn't so good at 10 p.m. for the debut of "Without a Trace" in its new time slot. "Trace" (11.4 mil, 2.8/7) let a lot of its "Mentalist" lead-in slip away, as the second hour of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" picked up steam. "Dancing" finished out with 18.2 mil and 4.7/12 in the demo.
Fox won the night in 18-49 on the strength of 8 p.m.'s "House" (12.1 mil, 4.9/14), which nonetheless is off its game from last season, but it may just be a case of the show settling into its new earlier time slot.
At the top of the night, ABC's new unscripted reality-game show "Opportunity Knocks" (6.6 mil, 1.8/5) was sluggish out of the gate, although viewership and its demo score picked up at the half-hour mark.