NBC appears to have climbed back into the game on Tuesdays with the launch of "My Name Is Earl."

The critics' darling logged nearly 15.3 million viewers in the 9 p.m. half-hour.

More people watched the new single-camera, laugh-track-less comedy, which stars Jason Lee as a petty thief who decides to fix his karma after being hit by a car, than had watched Monday's season debut of CBS's "Two and a Half Men" (15 million) -- considered the comedy to beat this season.

Last season, in the same Tuesday time period, NBC's animated sitcom "Father of the Pride" opened with 12.4 million tuned in. But that happened in August, rather than on the first Tuesday of the official TV season opposite strong competition.

Speaking of that strong competition, "Earl" handily beat the second episode of Fox's "House" (13.6 million viewers), ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" dance-off special (10.9 million) and CBS's "Big Brother" finale (8.2 million). "Big Brother" was off by more than 2 million viewers compared with last year's finale.

For NBC, the "Earl" unveiling was its best performance with a comedy on Tuesday at 9 since an episode of "Frasier" that aired when "Frasier" was "Frasier" and not "what-have-they-done-to-'Frasier' " -- way back in November 2002.

Last season, NBC averaged only 8.5 million viewers in that same half-hour.

Among the 18-to-49-year-olds NBC targets, "Earl" improved the time period by 83 percent compared with what the network averaged last season with a programming medley of mostly "Father of the Pride," "The Biggest Loser" and "Scrubs" episodes.

NBC also did well at 10 p.m. with the season debut of "Law & Order: SVU," which grabbed its largest opening audience ever -- 16.8 million viewers. "SVU" outstripped ABC's "Wife Swap" and CBS's "Rock Star: INXS" finale combined in the hour. "SVU" also did its best opening numbers ever among those 18-to-49-year-olds.

In between these two early successes, the second season debut of NBC's "The Office" did that show's biggest audience yet on Tuesday night -- 9 million viewers -- but that still created something of a low between the two strong launches. "The Office" finished third in its time period.

Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera will star in a new syndicated half-hour, weekday strip that will air on those Fox broadcast network TV stations and those UPN stations that in fact are owned by Fox Television Stations.

Yes, Fox owns some UPN stations, such as here in Washington, where it owns both the Fox broadcast station and the UPN station. It's called a "duopoly." Write the FCC and thank them.

When "Geraldo at Large" launches in November, it will take the time slots on the Fox and UPN stations where the revival of "A Current Affair" had aired.

Ratings-starved "A Current Affair" will end its run in October. It is produced by Twentieth Television, a syndication operation of News Corp., the parent of Fox broadcast network and Fox News Channel.

Yesterday's announcement was made by Jack Abernethy, CEO of Fox Television Stations Inc., who used to work for Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes at both FNC and CNBC.

Ailes was named chairman of the Fox Television Stations just last month, which means Abernethy reports to him again.

Synergy here, synergy there, synergy everywhere.

Produced in New York and distributed by Twentieth TV, "Geraldo at Large" will report that day's "most compelling" stories "in a fast, informative and exciting way," the announcement said.

The show will include "special correspondents and field teams" and feature "top newsmakers."

In Washington, "A Current Affair" runs on WTTG at 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and repeats the next day at 12:30 p.m.

Jason Lee is a thief in "My Name Is Earl," which helped NBC steal viewers.