By James Hibberd
Updated March 20, 2013 at 04:06 PM EDT
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The premiere of celebrity diving show Splash gave ABC a ratings springboard on Tuesday night.

The network’s “Diving With the Stars” delivered 8.8 million viewers and a healthy 2.6 rating among adults 18-49. Splash came in second place at 8 p.m., beating the second week of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen and was topped only in the hour by CBS’ NCIS. The numbers were big enough to make Splash the top unscripted series debut on broadcast TV since Fox’s The X Factor first premiered in 2011. It also doubles the rating of Fox’s quickie version of the same concept (Stars in Danger: The High Dive) that was hustled out in January before Splash could hit the air.

After Fox’s diving show belly flopped in the ratings, we had modest expectations for ABC’s take, but Splash is arguably a better fit for the network that airs Dancing With the Stars. At the same time, these premiere ratings might not mean much — ABC has successfully delivered strong sampling for the premieres of short-lived cooking competition The Taste and the return of Celebrity Wife Swap earlier this season, only to see both shows drop sharply. At least Splash ratings climbed from its first half hour to its second, which is a positive sign.

Here’s what else is interesting in last night’s numbers: Justin Timberlake’s CW special rated about the same as a modestly rated CW show. CBS’ Golden Boy went up 13 percent from last week (but that’s almost certainly because lead-in NCIS: LA aired an original episode instead of a repeat). ABC’s Dancing special was up slightly from last year’s similar special. Hell’s Kitchen dropped a tenth from its premiere. NBC’s Go On and New Normal both had their lowest-rated episodes to date.

Full Chart:

ADULT DEMO RANK

ADULTS 18-49 RATING

TOTAL VIEWERS (+000)

FOX

8-9P

HELLS KITCHEN

#6

2.0

4,853

9:00P

NEW GIRL

#4

2.2

4,202

9:30P

MINDY PROJECT

#7t

1.7

3,158

ABC

8-9P

SPLASH

P

#3

2.6

8,804

9-10P

DWTS SPECIAL

S

#5

2.1

9,577

10-11P

BODY-PROOF

#9

1.5

8,251

CBS

8-9P

NCIS

#1

3.1

19,094

9-10P

NCIS:LA

#2

2.8

16,586

10-11P

GOLDEN BOY

#7t

1.7

9,260

NBC

8:00P

OFF-ROCKERS

#11t

1.0

3,711

8:30P

OFF-ROCKERS

#10

1.1

3,701

9:00P

GO ON

#11t

1.0

2,856

9:30P

NEW NORMAL

#14

0.7

2,098

10-11P

SMASH

#13

0.8

2,645

CW

8-9P

TIMBERLAKE

S

#15

0.4

1,075

9-10P

BEAUTY

R

#16

0.2

529

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