1:06pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'The Walking Dead's' Midseason Premiere Sets Basic Cable Records
AMC's The Walking Dead returned for the second half of its sophomore season with record ratings Sunday.
The zombie drama based on the comic series created by Robert Kirkman collected 8.1 million total viewers, and set records in a pair of demos: adults 18-49 (5.4 million viewers) and adults 25-54 (4.4 million).
Sunday's ratings topped the Andrew Lincoln starrer's previous record, when October's 90-minute Season 2 premiere drew 7.3 million viewers and set then-records in the two demos. October's Season 2 bow became the strongest telecast for any drama in basic-cable history in two key demos, collecting 4.8 million in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic and 4.2 million adults 25-54, shattering a nearly 10-year-old record for the demos.
December 2010's Season 1 finale drew 6 million viewers, including 4 million in 18-49 and setting a then-record for the most-watched basic cable series of all time in the demo.
Sunday's ratings were up 12 percent and 6 percent in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos. Including encore showings, the midseason premiere that saw Rick (Lincoln) and company encounter a new outside threat from the living, collected 10.1 million total viewers.
Dead served as a lead-in for the premiere of Kevin Smith's unscripted series Comic Book Men, which premiered at 10 p.m. and collected 2 million total viewers.
"It is a great night for AMC. We're thrilled to see this incredible record breaking response to The Walking Dead, and Comic Book Men is off to a strong start as well," AMC president Charlie Collier said in a statement announcing the news Monday.
The record ratings come as Kirkman faces a lawsuit from childhood friend Tony Moore over financial compensation to the lucrative franchise and a month after AMC announced it would expand the third season of the series to 16 episdoes.