The Mentalist

recently topped the Nielsen ratings, a remarkable coup for a new series.

Hopefully it will avoid the fate of

Heroes

, now in its third season. Yesterday's darling, today's roadkill.

"This show started out gangbusters but now it's dropping faster than any show on the air," says Marc Berman, television analyst for Mediaweek magazine. "Everyone I know that watches the show says they can't believe how bad it is now compared to what it was. I think it's lost its way."

And its viewers.

Heroes

has shed 50 percent of its audience since its first season and 27 percent since September. It seems to be eroding each week.

The one bright spot is that it continues to draw the panted-after 18-to-34-year-old demographic. That's what happens when you incorporate comic books into your plot.

If consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, then this series has no such tormentor. The story arcs are ridiculously murky and random.

Every season seems to build to some version of an end-of-the-world crisis, but no one ever dies.

Heroes

is the show that cried "Apocalypse" too often.

The characters yo-yo back and forth from good guy to villain so often and so capriciously, you feel like you're watching professional wrestling.

You need CliffsNotes to follow the plot. I tuned in this week after taking a break from the show, and Hiro, who has always been fluent in English, didn't know the language except for some stilted guidebook phrases such as "Where is the bathroom?"

Follow your nose, Hiro. This show is a stinker.

Out of context.

It was a strange week for guest stars.

On

House

, the mother of the teenage patient with this week's mystery ailment was played by Sherilyn Fenn. You may remember her as the kittenish siren Audrey on

Twin Peaks

, the girl who could tie cherry stems into knots with her tongue.

Jimmi Simpson, so funny all year long as Letterman's uninvited guest, Lyle the Intern, turned up as an eager serial-killer devotee on

CSI

.

Small world.

Puppet putdown.

One day last month the Muppets took over

Today

to parody the morning show. The only funny part was a fabric Ann Curry, who hailed each customer in a Dean & DeLuca. "Hello. Good morning. Good morning. Ann Curry," she said over and over.

Maybe the skit hit too close to home. Have you noticed that since then the real Curry has dramatically toned down her sunny serial salutations? She used to start off her headline-reading segment each morning with a hearty "Good morning" to each and every person in the studio, and another shout-out to viewers.

Now? Not so much.

Those nasty Muppets!

Rebounding.

Funny episode of

The Simpsons

this week, as Mr. Burns won an NBA team in a poker game and took pointers on how to run the franchise from Mark Cuban, the manic owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Cuban interrupts his tutorial at one point, shouting, "Hold that thought. No one's paid attention to me for an entire 10 seconds." He then runs down to center court to juggle a cheerleader, a basketball and a chain saw.

As spoofs go, this was nothing but net.

Timbre!

Have you seen the commercial for AT&T's GoPhone, with gingerbread men decorating a gingerbread house? Unless my ear betrays me, the voices of the cookies belong to Steve Buscemi and Norm Macdonald.

I've never understood why animated films always cast celebrities to do the voices. Are we more inclined to take our kids to see a cartoon if we know John Travolta talked for the doggy or Cameron Diaz for the princess?

And why hire name actors to do voices on a commercial? Without the benefit of credits, they're totally anonymous.

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/