Walking Dead Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and "The Walking Dead" returned to record ratings with the Season 5 premiere. Photo: AMC

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” might be about a group of people struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world stalked by zombies, but the show itself is having no trouble staying alive. The Season 5 premiere aired Sunday to 17.3 million viewers. Those numbers were the biggest ratings in the series’ history.

Sunday’s premiere topped “The Walking Dead’s” previous series high of 16.1 million from the Season 4 premiere on Oct. 13, 2013. The numbers are also significantly higher than when the series left off. The Season 4 finale garnered just 15.7 million. The premiere even beat out the usually dominant “Sunday Night Football” broadcast on NBC (although a blowout victory for the Philadelphia Eagles over the New York Giants did not make for very compelling competition).

The high ratings are nothing new for “The Walking Dead,” which has averaged more than 10 million viewers for most of its run and continues to climb higher each season. The Season 5 premiere may have been boosted by the promise of an opening scene billed as one of the most disturbing and shocking the series (which is no stranger to those adjectives) has ever produced.

Even “Talking Dead” pulled in record ratings Sunday. The postmortem fan talk show dedicated to “The Walking Dead” hit 6.9 million viewers with its Season 4 premiere.  The numbers prove that the “The Walking Dead" has staying power as a franchise. The “Talking Dead” premiere numbers are even higher than those for the premiere of “Breaking Bad’s” final season, not bad for a spinoff talk show.

In fact, “The Walking Dead” has consistently hit much higher numbers than AMC’s other recent hit, “Breaking Bad,” ever did, despite receiving less critical acclaim. In fact, as “The Walking Dead” continues to rank number one in non-sports programming in the key 18-49 demographic, the show may be on pace to become the most successful cable series of all time.

Not surprisingly “The Walking Dead” has already been renewed for a sixth season. With numbers like these, no matter how many people die in the show, the series is going to be a hard one for AMC to kill off.

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