The CW kicked off the unofficial start of the fall season last night with its premieres of America’s Next Top Model and new series Hellcats. For CW, it is a challenge to turn on the lights and bring viewers in right away as the network pretty much checked out all summer with repeats and the modestly rated reality series Plain Jane. In its 15th cycle, veteran reality series Top Model (2.9 million viewers, 1.3 rating in adults 18-49 and 18-34) had its lowest-rated premiere ever , down 13% from last fall. New cheerleading drama Hellcats (3.0 million, 1.4 rating in 18-34, 1.2 in 18-49) got off to a solid though unspectacular start, becoming the first series or season premiere on CW or UPN to match or build onto its Top Model lead-in in total viewers and the networks’ key 18-34 and women 18-34 demos. (That was helped of course by the fact that Top Model has slipped from its previous highs.) Still, Hellcats‘ debut is impressive, up 114% in total viewers and 75% in adults 18-34 from the series that premiered behind Top Model last fall, the short-lived Beautiful Life. (though not able to match last fall’s premiere performance of Vampire Diaries and Melrose Place.) It delivered CW’s largest non-Top Model audience in the Wednesday 9 PM hour since the series premiere of Gossip Girl in 2007. Hellcats was especially strong in teens (1.9/7), building on its Top Model lead-in by 72%.

Elsewhere last night, fresh off its renewal for a second season, a two-hour Masterchef on Fox (2.4/7 in 18-49) was up 20% from last week, leading the network to a top finish for the night in the adult demo. CBS’ Big Brother (2.6/8) at 8PM was down 10%. On NBC, Minute to Win It (1.8/6) was flat, while the America’s Got Talent result show (2.7/8) rebounded from last week’s low, up 8%. The rest was repeats.