The Walking Dead
Shows like "The Walking Dead" or "NCIS" remain incredibly popular despite recent shooting tragedies. AMC

The Walking Dead” returned to AMC Sunday following a mid-season break. More than 12 million viewers watched “The Suicide King,” and it seems the buzz will continue as the show winds down its third season.

“The Walking Dead” proves the old adage that “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Following a two-month break between season three episodes, “The Walking Dead” returned to record highs for the show, notes The Hollywood Reporter. For Sunday's mid-season opener, the show drew 12.3 million visitors. That number will look great to AMC as numbers for the show were up across the board.

That 12.3 million viewers is a boost of nearly 2 million from the season three premiere while also a 6 percent increase from last year’s midseason premiere. The 2013 Grammy Awards was the obvious television event on Sunday but “The Walking Dead” not only performed strongly, it exceeded expectations. For all adults 18-49, “The Walking Dead” scored 7.7 million viewers, a basic cable record, notes THR.

These numbers continue the strong trend of season three for “The Walking Dead.” Before the break, the show was averaging 6.6 million viewers in the 18-49 range, besting hit shows such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family,” reports Deadline. All told, with the original 9 p.m. broadcasts followed by repeat showings at 11 p.m., midnight and 2 a.m., “The Walking Dead” midseason premiere drew 16.6 million viewers.

The third season has already been a tremendous success as “The Walking Dead” is the number one ad-supported series on basic cable and tops the lists across several audience demographics. While the show has been a success, much credit also has to go to its effective use of social media and promotional stunts, such as taking over Union Station in Toronto. “The Walking Dead” has made the midseason premiere as big of an event as the series premiere itself. The two months is spent building up fan anticipation and feeding the conversation, and buzz, surrounding the show through social media. “The Walking Dead” and AMC have offered glimpses of what is in store for the survivors and that only helps to spur fans to discuss possible plot turns on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t expect fortunes to change too much for “The Walking Dead.” The show doesn’t have much competition from new shows this season and will have to contend only with HBO’s season three premiere of “Game of Thrones,” on March 31, the night of “The Walking Dead” season finale.

According to THR, AMC President Charlie Collier said, “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.”