‘Walking Dead’ has monster return for AMC

Zombie series draws 8.1 million viewers in mid-season debut

AMC powerhouse “The Walking Dead” drew a monster 8.1 million viewers and record-setting demos for its return Sunday night: 5.4 million adults 18-49 and 4.4 million adults 25-54.

This was the eighth episode of the second season, with the cabler airing the first seven episodes last October and November. The first season ran only six episodes.

The record-breaking telecast for a basic cable drama was aired at 9 p.m. — despite facing the Grammy Awards on CBS. AMC repeated the episode at 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. and drew a cumulative 10.1 million viewers for the night, according to Nielsen.

Skein underwent significant behind-the-scenes changes last year when creator, showrunner and exec producer Frank Darabont left the show. Glen Mazzara replaced Darabont as showrunner, and there has been no ratings dropoff since the transition took place.

In addition to Darabont and Mazzara, other exec producers are Robert Kirkman (who wrote the comicbook on which the series is based), Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert.

With “The Walking Dead” as a stellar lead-in, AMC premiered Kevin Smith’s skein “Comic Book Men” at 10 p.m. Debut garnered 2 million viewers, which would be considered healthy for most new reality series but the number represents a huge dropoff from “The Walking Dead.”

In the 18-49 demo, “Comic Book Men” — an inside look at the personalities who work at Smith’s comicbook story in New Jersey — drew 1.3 million viewers. Series is set for six episodes and is exec produced by Smith, Charlie Corwin and Elyse Seiden.