Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

CBS’ NCIS was the top-ranked show Tuesday night, nabbing 17.2 million viewers according to overnight ratings. That’s 4 percent down from last week’s season premiere, but up 24 percent from last season’s average. The evening continued well for The Eye, with the freshman drama The Mentalist, starring Simon Baker, wooing 15.3 million viewers to win the 9 p.m. hour [see update below] over the Dancing With the Stars results show by 125,000 viewers. That 15.3 million is 89 percent of the NCIS lead-in, and only down 2 percent from its series debut. With 12.6 million viewers, Without a Trace held 83 percent of The Mentalist audience, and actually improved 12 percent on its own season opener, to take the 10 p.m. crown.

Though CBS dominated the day, there was some good news for the other networks: Fox’s Fringe (10 million viewers) headed back up in the ratings after dropping to 9.4 million last week from the week 2 high of 13.3 million. Ditto for House, which saw an uptick to 12.7 million at 8 p.m., a 300,000 gain from the week before. (That’s still short of the 14.8 million who tuned in for this season’s debut and the show’s 16.2 million average last season, when it aired an hour later at 9 p.m.)

Over on NBC, Law & Order: SVU improved on its Sept. 23 season premiere by 6 percent with 10.2 million viewers — just 400,000 shy of its last-season average. At The CW, both 90210 (3.2 million) and Privileged (1.9 million) also saw week-to-week gains. Privileged needed it, having dropped 32 percent from its Sept. 9 premiere. Note: If history repeats itself, those freshman series will earn another 2 million and 1 million viewers, respectively, in single CW encores later in the week.

Though NBC’s weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser didn’t do poorly enough to be taken literally, it wasn’t fortunate enough to gain viewers in its third week. Though it grew over the course of its two hours (from 6.5 million to 8 million), this week’s episode of the families edition averaged 7.2 million viewers, compared to 7.4 million last week and the 7.9 million who tuned in for the Sept. 16. season premiere.

UPDATE: After Tuesday night’s final ratings were released on Wednesday afternoon, Dancing With the Stars was proclaimed the winner of the 9 p.m. hour, besting The Mentalist by a mere 10,000 viewers.

addCredit(“Cliff Lipson/CBS”)

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