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Why Is 'The Walking Dead' So Popular?

We knew that people love watching zombie kills. We just never realized how many people love watching zombie kills. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sunday night’s Season 3 premiere of The Walking Dead was the highest-rated episode in the show’s history, drawing in a whopping 10.9 million viewers. That’s 1.9 million more than the Season 2 finale. What’s more, the episode broke the ratings record for any drama series telecast on basic cable among total viewers. And just to be clear it’s not just violence-craving teen boys tuning in: 6.1 million of those who watched were adults 25 to 54.

To put things in perspective, the Season 5 premiere of Breaking Bad — which also brought in that show’s biggest audience to date — garnered 2.9 million viewers. Similarly Mad Men’s long-awaited Season 5 premiere delivered a series high of 3.5 million viewers. We find it fascinating that AMC’s more critically-acclaimed dramas can’t even come close to touching The Walking Dead’s numbers, yet these are the cable shows that dominate the cultural landscape, the ones we tend to discuss with friends and coworkers. Curiously, for all of the eyes that are focused on Rick Grimes, he isn’t nearly in the same league as Walter White or Don Draper. For all of its ubiquity, there’s a guilty pleasure stigma that a show about killing zombies can’t seem to escape.

We’re curious: Why do you think The Walking Dead attracts such a massive audience? Is it just the show’s human on zombie violence, or is there something larger compelling us to watch? Perhaps there’s some comfort in seeing a motley group of strangers (or at least the majority of it) manage to survive in the face of total apocalypse. Or maybe it’s the same perverse escapism that we get with certain reality TV shows; witnessing their onscreen struggles makes us feel better about our own lives. Hit the comments and let us know your thoughts.