Not even the Grammy Awards could keep fans of AMC’s zombie smash The Walking Dead from tuning into the show’s Season 3 midseason premiere to find out which Dixon brother prevailed in The Governor’s twisted death match — and just how far off the deep end Rick may have fallen.
The much-anticipated episode, “The Suicide King” drew 12.3 million viewers, besting the show’s previous record of 10.4 million viewers for October’s Season 3 opener.
In a press release announcing the numbers, AMC also noted that The Walking Dead‘s Season 3 average of 6.8 million viewers among adults 18-49 topped formidable broadcast network hits including Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Two and A Half Men and even perennial CBS frontrunner NCIS.
AMC also drew an audience of 4.1 million to the newly-expanded hourlong version of Talking Dead, TWD‘s live, fan-centric post show hosted by Chris Hardwick.
“When you look at numbers like this, the first thing that comes to mind is how grateful we are to the fans of this show. They embrace The Walking Dead in a way that we wanted to believe was possible but we never take for granted,” said AMC president Charlie Collier in the release. “The cast and crew put everything they have into making this show. They’re a phenomenally talented group who truly give their all. We congratulate everyone involved.”
The record audience should handily allay any lingering worries that Season 2 and 3 showrunner Glen Mazzara’s departure might cause fans to become disillusioned. Former supervising producer Scott Gimple takes over for the show’s fourth season.
On the Feb. 17 episode, Home, The Governor restores an uneasy order to Woodbury — and Merle and Daryl find themselves at odds over the best way to ensure their survival.
New episodes of The Walking Dead premiere Sunday nights at 9/8CT on AMC, followed immediately by a new hour of Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick.