'Fringe' and 'Mentalist' Go Head to Head

Rash Report: Both Attracting Viewers in Same Timeslot

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- The good news? The new season, still recovering from the writers strike, has at least two scripted series that could qualify as hits by the standards of today's media environment. The bad news? They run against each other in the same timeslot, reducing ratings potential for both shows (as well as probably selling some DVRs).
Fox's 'Fringe' has the edge over CBS's 'The Mentalist.'
Fox's 'Fringe' has the edge over CBS's 'The Mentalist.' Credit: Fox/CBS

Fox's "Fringe" has the edge over CBS's "The Mentalist," but both play to their network's strength, while echoing its past. "Fringe" channels "The X-Files" as a sci-fi serial that has quickly hooked a following. It delivered a 3.9/10 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic to win its time period. In third place was "The Mentalist" (3.4/9), just one of many forensic-focused dramas that have made a dramatic difference to CBS over the last decade.

'House' holds its value
However strong for a new series, "Fringe" only held "House" 's lead-in at a 70% rate, as the Fox hit was again Tuesday night's top-rated show, delivering a 5.6/15. Together, they combined for an easy first-place average of a 4.8/13.

CBS finished second with a 3.2/9, as "The Mentalist" 's lead-in, the similarly themed police procedural "NCIS," started the night with a 3.6/10. Lead-out "Without a Trace," however, saw 24% of "The Mentalist" 's audience go missing, as it posted a 2.6/7.

Some of the erosion experienced by "Trace" is due to a derivative cop caper, NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," which once again won its 10 p.m. timeslot with a 3.5/10, although that was down 8% from its season average. A slight slimming-down of about 3% reduced ratings for "The Biggest Loser: Families," which delivered a 3.0/8 in a two-hour version.

'Stone' sinking
ABC (2.6/7) finished fourth for the night, held down by a show the network had hoped would be one of last year's hits, "Eli Stone." Instead, the sophomore series notched a 2.1/6 at 10 p.m., which was 44% lower than its "Dancing with the Stars" (3.8/10) lead-in.

Last night's episode eliminated singer Toni Braxton from dancing again. But ABC itself was eliminated from serious contention by running a "Dancing" recap show at 8 p.m., as it only delivered a 2.0/5.

Finishing fifth was the CW, which aired a rerun of "90210" at 8 p.m. (.6/2). "Privileged" offered an original episode, but didn't do much better, as it rated a .7/2.

To be sure, the new season is only a month old, so it's possible some freshman series could gain TV traction and emerge as hits. And having two new shows do well -- particularly when they don't involve viewers voting -- has to give the networks (and writers) hope, even if they run in the same hour.

Now it's time to work on the other 93 hours of the combined five networks' schedule....

Wednesday: Take a break from the series of serious crises the world faces for the World Series, which starts on Fox.
Thursday: A good night for TV, as the Series continues on Fox with game two while serial "Grey's Anatomy" runs on ABC and the unserious news of "Weekend Update" gets its Thursday run on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" special.

About a quarter of adults 18-49 who watched the program premiere of "Life on Mars" orbited out for episode two. Will it erode further?

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.
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