"The Walking Dead" has been blowing away the competition, pulling in monster ratings each week since AMC's zombie apocalypse drama returned in February.
The show brought in 12.3 million viewers when it returned with the second half of Season 3 (a final total of 16.6 million after the second airing) last month. But, the bigger number -- which is shocking industry folks -- is the 7.7 million viewers the show attracted in the coveted adults 18-49 group. It's also, according to Ad Week, the highest-rated cable show among women in the demographic.
So why are people turning in in record numbers? Series star Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, has some theories.
"People keep asking me, 'Why? Why? Why?' and I think maybe because it's new, maybe it's because it's raw, it's real, everything's been pared away from these people," Andrew told Access Hollywood on the red carpet ahead of the show's PaleyFest 2013 panel on Friday in Los Angeles. "It's just raw emotions and people trying to survive."
Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, a sword-wielding fierce female, said she's been listening to the fans, and she thinks it might have to do with the family factor.
"I'm finding out that like families are getting together, it's like a family show, which I find amazing," she told Access at the PaleyFest event. "But it makes sense because people... they feel like they really want to connect with their families because they're watching such a dire circumstance. I think what keeps going through people's heads is, 'Who would I be in that world?... Who would I become? Who would I keep close to me?' And it actually makes people want to cling close to those that they love 'cause they realize that they might not be there forever."
This past Sunday's episode, "Clear," featured just three of the cast - Andrew's Rick Grimes, Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes and Danai's Michonne - and returning guest star Lennie James, who reprised his Season 1 role as Morgan. But even without fan favorite Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus, the numbers again were powerful.
According to numbers released by AMC on Tuesday, 11.3 million viewers watched the episode -- 7.2 million of those in the 18-49 age group.
Last Friday, Norman told Access he believed the show's ratings this season have something to do with the close connection between those who make the show and the fans themselves.
"Since the beginning, this show has felt like we're all in it together. A lot of like the social media stuff, some of those comments sort of turn into storylines, you know, indirectly or directly, so it's nice to have all this fan base, because it feels like it's our show," he said. "I mean, you see shows that last forever and the acting gets lazy, the writing gets lazy and you know, we're all terrified that we're gonna die at any second, for real, so... it's nice to have all these people."
Scott Wilson, who plays Hershel Greene, calls the success of the show "mind blowing."
"It's really just mind blowing," the 70-year-old actor told Access . "You know, you do this for a long time and all of a sudden you get in the middle of something like this, it's a treat. it's great."
Reacting to hefty amount of female viewers, Laurie Holden (Andrea) said she believes women relate to the show because "The Walking Dead" gals are tough.
"I think the women on the show are strong. I mean, it's the end of days. [Melissa McBride's character, Carol, is] becoming a little spitfire and Andrea wanted to kill herself and now she's more of a go-getter," she told Access . "It's a show where people really find their strengths and you have to be strong in an apocalypse and I think whether you're a mother or a warrior or whatever you do, I just feel like the women are very strong on our show and people relate to it."
"The Walking Dead" continues Sunday at 9 PM on AMC.
-- Jolie Lash
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