"All this arty-farty (stuff) aside," "The Walking Dead" writer/producer/director Frank Darabont told me back in the summer, "it’s really fun to see zombies in a show."
More than 5 million people agreed with Darabont on Sunday night, making "The Walking Dead" premiere (you can read my review of it here) the biggest hit in AMC history, and one of the bigger hits on cable, period.
The 90-minute premiere averaged 5.3 million viewers at 10 p.m. on Halloween, a number that goes up to 8.1 million if you add in people who watched the 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. airings. That puts it ahead of the 4.8 million who watched the premiere of "Boardwalk Empire," which HBO renewed the next day. (AMC hasn't renewed "The Walking Dead" yet, but at this point, it has to be a formality.) And it puts it well ahead of AMC's other original series; the "Mad Men" season finale, in comparison, drew 2.5 million viewers total, which is less than the 3.6 million viewers in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 year-old demographic, and only slightly ahead of the 2.1 million viewers who were in the even more coveted 18-34 demo.
(Also of demographic note: "The Walking Dead" was a rare scripted series to do better with adults 18-49 than 25-54. Zombies are a young man's game.)
"It's a good day to be dead," AMC president Charlie Collier said in a statement. "We are so proud of this series, its depth of storytelling and the remarkable talent attached. As the network dedicated to bringing viewers the best stories on television, we are so pleased to have the opportunity with 'The Walking Dead' to raise the bar within this popular genre and continue our commitment to being the home of premium television on basic cable."