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Mark and Mindy: 'NCIS' Juggernaut Squashes Tuesday Night Competition

Mixed bag for newbies ‘The Mindy Project,’ ‘Vegas’

'The Mindy Project,' starring Mindy Kaling, did not enjoy a strong premiere.

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The networks on Tuesday night presented a Whitman’s Sampler of new and returning series, and while the ever-popular varieties were predictably gobbled up, some novelty flavors were nibbled and discarded.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, CBS got the night started with some sweet ratings candy, drawing 20.5 million viewers and a 4.1 rating in the 18-49 demo with the 10th season premiere of NCIS.

After finishing the 2011-12 campaign as the most-watched scripted program on TV, NCIS showed no signs of slowing down, torching the 8 p.m. time slot in total viewers and finishing one-tenth of a ratings point behind NBC’s The Voice in the battle for the demo.

Starring Mark Harmon, the older-skewing NCIS (median age: 59.3 years) bested The Voice in the reach department by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio (20.5 million to 11.6 million), but trailed in the dollar demo (4.1 vs. 4.2).

NCIS’ Left Coast spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles also put up some garish numbers, beating all comers at 9 p.m. with an average delivery of 16.7 million viewers and a 3.4 in the demo.

On Fox, returning champ New Girl got the Grover Cleveland treatment, landing nonconsecutive slots at 8 and 9 p.m., the better to lead into the network’s two new comedies. Unfortunately, the Zooey Deschanel vehicle appeared to slump without its customary Glee support, drawing 5.35 million viewers and a 2.8 rating at the top of the night and 5.18 million viewers and a 2.8 at 9 p.m.

When compared to its blockbuster year-ago premiere (10.3 million viewers/4.8 rating), New Girl’s time slot debut was down 42 percent in the demo. In what promises to be one of the more closely observed time slots in prime, New Girl edged NBC’s Go On in the demo by one-tenth of a point but fell short on reach by a margin of some 1.7 million viewers.

With lukewarm support at the top of the hour and facing a tough crowd at 8:30 p.m., the Fox sitcom Ben and Kate had a soft launch, delivering 4.21 million viewers and a 2.1 in the demo. And while the highly anticipated Mindy Kaling series beat NBC’s The New Normal by a spread of four-tenths of a ratings point (2.4 to 2.0), The Mindy Project did not enjoy a strong opener. When compared to the premiere numbers notched by the year-ago time slot occupant Raising Hope, TMP dropped 2 million viewers and was off by 23 percent in the demo.

The 9-10 p.m. comedy roadblock will be at full capacity as of Oct. 23, when ABC airs the season premieres of Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23

At 10 p.m., it was a glass-half-full/empty scenario for CBS, which bowed its slick period drama Vegas to a not-inconsiderable 14.9 million viewers, blowing ABC’s Private Practice (6.45 million) and NBC’s Parenthood (4.85 million) off the map. That said, Vegas averaged a 2.5 in the 18-49 demo, which marks CBS’ lowest-rated Tuesday night drama debut since the one-off Century City premiered in 2004.

When compared to Unforgettable, which premiered in the 10 p.m. slot a year ago to 14.1 million viewers and a 2.9 rating, Vegas was up 6 percent among total viewers and down 14 percent in the demo.

On the whole, CBS dominated the night, averaging 17.4 million viewers and a 3.3 in the demo. The resurgent NBC finished second (7.1 million/2.7), while Fox took third in the demo with a 2.5 and fourth in total viewers (4.85 million). ABC ranked No. 2 in total reach (9.12 million viewers) but finished fourth with the under-50 set (2.0).