'The Walking Dead' return earns the show's biggest audience ever

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Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in Season 3 of 'The Walking Dead' -- Gene Page/AMC
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Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in Season 3 of 'The Walking Dead' -- Gene Page/AMC

What? You say you're a "Walking Dead" fan, but you missed Sunday night's midseason premiere? Well, you might be the only zombie apocalypse fan who didn't tune in, as the Season 3 return earned the series its largest audience ever, with 12.3 million viewers.

"The Suicide King," the series' first new episode since December 2, broke the series' old viewership record -- 10.9 million viewers for its Season 3 premiere on October 14, 2012.

[Related: Check Out Our Recap of Last Night's 'Walking Dead' Premiere]

Including the 11 PM, midnight, and 2 AM encore airings of "The Suicide King," the episode drew a total of 16.6 million viewers. And in the ever-prized adults 18-49 demographic, "The Walking Dead" is averaging 6.8 million viewers this season, which is more than broadcast network hits like "Modern Family," "NCIS," "Two and a Half Men," and, yes, even "The Big Bang Theory."

"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," AMC president Charlie Collier said in a press statement. "The cast and crew put everything they have into making this show. They're a phenomenally talented group who truly give their all. We congratulate everyone involved."

[Photos: A Who's Who of Who's Left on 'The Walking Dead']

"The Walking Dead" Season 3 continues on February 17 with an episode titled "Home," in which Rick Grimes' friends begin to seriously question his leadership, while the Governor plots just how he'll get revenge on Rick and his prison posse.

"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.

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