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CBS Wins The Week As "The Mentalist" Looks Like Fall's First New Hit

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NEW YORK — CBS is looking good so far this TV season, easily winning last week in the prime-time ratings and perhaps minting a new hit in "The Mentalist."

About a man who solves crimes using acute powers of observation, the show was the third most-watched scripted series last week. The drama starring Simon Baker was helped by its Tuesday time slot after "NCIS," which has quietly grown into one of TV's biggest hits in its sixth season.

CBS dominated the competition last week, scoring 11 of the top 20 shows, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Several of the network's programs, including "How I Met Your Mother," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: Miami," have started out this fall better than they did in 2007, according to an analysis by the Madison Avenue firm Magna.

"Whether this holds up remains to be seen, but CBS couldn't have asked for a much better start to the new season," said Steve Sternberg, executive vice president of audience analysis for Magna.

The news is not nearly so good at ABC and NBC, Sternberg said. Virtually all of their regular series are down from last year. Second-year series with momentum cut short by the writer's strike _ "Pushing Daisies," "Dirty Sexy Money" _ have suffered on ABC.

NBC heavily promoted a supposedly rejuvenated "Heroes" during the Olympics, yet it didn't work. The show ranked No. 25 last week with 9.5 million viewers, Nielsen said.

"Again, it's too early to say this will continue, but it's not a promising sign for either network," Sternberg said.

The most popular television event by far last week was the Palin-Biden vice presidential debate, which had more than 70 million viewers. No entertainment show, during the second week of a brand new season, topped 19 million viewers.

For the week, CBS averaged 11.1 million viewers (7.0 rating, 12 share) and also won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic advertisers eagerly seek. ABC had 9.2 million (6.0, 10), NBC 7.8 million (5.0, 8), Fox 6.5 million (4.0, 6), the CW 2.4 million (1.6, 3), My Network TV 1.7 million (1.1, 2) and ION Television 470,000 (0.3, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision dominated with 3.8 million viewers (1.9 rating, 3 share), Telemundo had 1.1 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura 570,000 (0.3, 1) and Azteca 160,000 (0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.9 million viewers (5.5, 11), while ABC's "World News" was second with 7.8 million (5.3, 11). The "CBS Evening News" had 6.2 million viewers (4.2, 8), a 3 percent jump over its average this year, on the week Katie Couric had her much-discussed interview with Sarah Palin. However, the interview was a big presence on the Web.

Fox News Channel marked a milestone with 11.1 million viewers during the vice presidential debate Friday, the cable network's largest audience ever.

A ratings point represents 1,145,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.5 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 18.88 million; "NCIS," CBS, 17.47 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 16.65 million; "Desperate Housewives," ABC, 15.68 million; "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 15.49 million; "The Mentalist," CBS, 15.48 million; "CSI: NY," CBS, 14.89 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 14.78 million; "CSI: Miami," CBS, 14.35 million; Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh at Jacksonville, NBC, 14.21 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by General Electric Co. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.

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