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The ratings fleet is in for ‘NCIS’

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

On a repeat “NCIS” (8 p.m., CBS) from last May, a hero medic becomes a murder suspect after the corpse of a female sailor is found in a storage locker.

In its own quiet way, “NCIS” has become one of Tuesday night’s most popular dramas, helping CBS dominate the night that once belonged to “Frasier” and “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit.” According to the network, the military drama’s audience has increased nearly 15 percent since last summer, and has averaged 9.42 million viewers per week during the summer rerun season.

It’s interesting to note that “NCIS” has retained such a strong following while shows like “Desperate Housewives,” with so much critical buzz, have seen the audience for repeats decline dramatically. For the week ending July 31, “NCIS” was the sixth most popular show with roughly 9 million viewers, while “Housewives” tumbled to the No. 45 show with an audience of just over 5 million. One could argue that the fans of “Housewives” have already seen the show and that viewers who did not catch “NCIS” during the regular season are now sampling the series. But shows that stay strong during the summer months tend to become even more popular when their new seasons commence. This pattern unfolded for the CBS drama “Without a Trace”: after a strong summer, it overtook “ER” and has not looked back.

The third season of “NCIS” kicks off on Sept. 20. Look for “Picket Fences” and “Chicago Hope” star Lauren Holly to join the cast as a new director who shares a romantic past with Special Agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon). Actress Cote de Pablo will also join “NCIS” as an Israeli counterterrorism expert who crosses paths with Gibbs on the murder investigation of agent Kate Todd. De Pablo was last seen on CBS in the Richard Dreyfuss campus drama “The Education of Max Bickford.”

Other highlights

Professional tennis from the U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y. (4 p.m., USA).

On two episodes of “House” (Fox), the doctor dates (8 p.m.), House’s ex’s husband needs care (9 p.m.).

On back-to-back episodes of “Gilmore Girls” (WB), Logan’s family (8 p.m.), the life of an ink-stained wretch (9 p.m.).

Gang-related homicide on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (10 p.m., NBC).

Dietary correctness runs amok on “Boston Legal” (10 p.m., ABC).

A Holocaust survivor worries about his sons’ embrace of an insular religious orthodoxy in the documentary “Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust” on “P.O.V.” (10 p.m., KSPS).

Cult choice

A bullied prep school student (John Kerr) finds understanding in the arms of his headmaster’s wife (Deborah Kerr) in the 1956 melodrama “Tea and Sympathy” (5 p.m., TCM ), directed by Vincent Minnelli.

Series notes

An hour of clips on “Most Outrageous TV Moments” (8 p.m., NBC) … On two episodes of “According to Jim” (ABC), a coffin surprise (8 p.m.), a compensatory blow-out (9 p.m.) … Lynn sings lead on “Girlfriends” (8 p.m).

On two episodes of “Rodney” (ABC), a business rivalry (8:30 p.m.), three on a mattress (9:30 p.m.) … Kung fu fighting on “Eve” (8:30 p.m., UPN).

Modern Maturity meets matriculation on “Tommy Lee Goes to College” (9 p.m., NBC) … Julie Chen hosts “Big Brother 6” (9 p.m., CBS) … The search continues on “R U the Girl” (9 p.m., UPN) … A birthday-party morale booster on “The Office” (9:30 p.m., NBC) … Dave Navarro finds new ways to look lame on “Rock Star: INXS” (10 p.m., CBS).

Late night

Eileen Collins and Richard Lewis appear on “Late Show with David Letterman” (11:35 p.m., CBS) … Jay Leno hosts Johnny Depp, Eva Mendes and Shout Out Loud on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC) … Kevin Dillon and Hawthorne Heights appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (12:05 a.m., ABC).

Adam Sandler and Barney Reed chat on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” (12:35 a.m., NBC) … Craig Ferguson hosts Jennifer Tilly and Corbin Bernsen on “The Late, Late Show” (12:37 a.m., CBS).

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