Simon Baker and Owain Yeoman, <I>The Mentalist</i> Simon Baker and Owain Yeoman, The Mentalist

Tuesday's tallies:

8 pm/ET
NCIS topped the hour with its second-largest audience ever, 18.54 million total viewers. House led the demos, but dipped a bit in viewers, to 12.4 mil.

ABC's Santa Claus came to town and found nearly nine million folks waiting for him, while Biggest Loser placed fourth with about eight mil in its first hour.

9 pm
The Mentalist continues to see bigger and bigger audiences, hitting yet another series high: 18.77 million viewers (a week-to-week surge of 18 percent). And that was with According to Jim (a fourth place-worthy 5.8 mil) now in the mix! In third (behind Biggest Loser's rear end), Fringe slipped a hair, to 8.69 mil.

10 pm
Without a Trace (12.2 million viewers) and SVU (10.3 mil, No. 1 in demos) both enjoyed gains of about 18 percent. Eli Stone sank to 4.93 mil, a 28 percent plunge from its previous, pre-cancellation outing. Asks: Why do you like/love The Mentalist? Tell us what you see in the freshman series, in the comments section.