Zombies Have Conquered Pop Culture: 16.1 Million People Watched WALKING DEAD

That beats the BREAKING BAD finale by 5 million viewers. 

Somehow The Walking Dead just keeps getting more popular. Last night's season premiere drew in a whopping SIXTEEN POINT ONE MILLION VIEWERS - live. Surely there are more waiting to watch on DVR, piracy and Blu. It's the biggest episode in the show's history, proving that four years in the zombie program is only getting more and more popular. 

What is keeping the show going? It seems hard to deny that The Walking Dead is, on a basic level, not a particularly good TV show. The writing and acting are consistently subpar, and the show is notable for being excruciatingly dull. But it's also incredibly bleak and completely violent - it's as violent as most hardcore zombie movies. This isn't a Warm Bodies type of half-measure; The Walking Dead pulls few gore punches. And yet there were more people watching the show last night than may have ever seen George Romero's Day of the Dead

I can't quite wrap my head around it. We're certainly seeing some sort of pop culture shift taking place. The Walking Dead doubled or tripled the numbers of most network shows last night, with only football being a real rival in terms of numbers. Hell, Talking Dead beat many network shows last night. This isn't a new thing - the show has been a hit from the start - but the fact that it continues to grow is nothing short of amazing. And it continues to grow in ways that eclipse other shows that have held on to the pop cultural conversation, like Breaking BadThe Walking Dead''s season four premiere beat Breaking Bad's finale by five million viewers. 

This would be where I come to you with some grand theory about why a downbeat, hyperviolent TV show is such a hit, but I'm stumped. I mean, there's the usual stuff - the government shutdown and the general sense that the world is going to hell around us - that feeds into the popularity of all apocalyptic media, but that doesn't explain the audience's appetite for violence. The Walking Dead trafficks in the kind of gut-munching once reserved for the weirdos who subscribed to GoreZone. Now it's Sunday night required viewing. 

How did America's stomach get so steely? And why couldn't it have happened with a show that was actually any good?