AMC’s The Walking Dead ended its third season with the series’ best ratings, with 12.4 million overall viewers and over 8 million in the key 18-49 demographic. These are the kind of numbers that most cable shows — or network shows for that matter — dream about at night when they’re peering through Entertainment Weekly issues from 1996-1999, looking for something to remake. Well all those networks are even greener with envy (and zombie rot) after the ratings were tallied for the show’s fourth season premiere last night. The endless parade of promotion between seasons paid off in spades, as the episode attracted 16.1 million viewers, with 10.4 million in that coveted demo. Not only is that total a record for the series, it’s probably larger than the number of actual humans left on the post-zombified Earth. And AMC couldn’t be more pleased.
“Sincere thanks to the fans, who have welcomed The Walking Dead back for its fourth season with the highest-rated episode in the show’s history,” said AMC President Charlie Collier in a press release. “We could not be more proud of this show and everyone on both sides of the camera who work so hard to give life to this story of character, leadership and survival.”
It wasn’t the highest watched program of the night, mind you. That went to football of course, as NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage of the Dallas Cowboys facing the Washington Redskins netted 19.6 million viewers, but The Walking Dead brought more 16-49-year-olds. It wasn’t the most exciting game anyway, so that probably led more people to tune out early. And one has to assume the +7 results that allow for DVR viewings will add at least a million to these ratings. I was one of those people.
And I have to wonder why I was one of them. This series has never been what anyone could genuinely call “great” when lined up with other classic shows. The premiere fell prey to many of The Walking Dead‘s more damaging tropes: overstating the obvious, taking too long to introduce plot, Rick walking around like he has the mental mumps. But there were a lot of promises that this season would be better than those of the past, with a new showrunner in Scott Gimple, who also wrote the episode. It’ll probably always be this way, and I’ll always end up watching, because when it comes right down to it, I’d rather watch Daryl whipping ass with his glam rock hairstyle than Dads or Mom or any other new show starting up this season.
That said, if the upcoming spinoff turns out to be any good, I’ll leave the original behind like it had a bad limp. Check out the two videos below to see what we can expect next week. Do you guys think the ratings will go higher or lower?