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'Better Call Saul' scores highest debut ratings in cable history

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Ben Leuner/AMC

Bet AMC executives are glad they didn’t lose that Albuquerque lawyer’s number. Sunday night’s launch of Better Call Saul was the highest-rated series debut in cable history. The highly anticipated Breaking Bad prequel delivered 6.9 million viewers and a record-setting 3.4 adults 18-49 rating. That’s an enormous launch on a cable network where even hit shows tend to start modest and then gradally gather steam.

Of course, a show debuting after the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead is a bit like a network airing an episode of show after the Super Bowl, and Better Call Saul has plenty of viewer recognition from Breaking Bad. Ratings for tonight’s second episode should provide a stronger sense of the show’s true performance (no spoilers, but Monday’s hour contains a desert-set scene that’s easily the best sequence the show’s first few episodes). EW’s Dan Snierson has some scoop what Saul producers have planned this season and some discussion of that black-and-white opening flashforward scene.

The Walking Dead, meanwhile, had 15.6 million viewers and a 8.9 adults 18-49 rating — that’s down very slightly from last year’s midseason opener. The Walking Dead‘s return ranks as the biggest adult-demo rating of any series this season. The episode was a surreal surprise that — as EW’s Dalton Ross put it — played like a poem. Check out his interview with a departing actor and his Q&A with showrunner Scott Gimple.

The AMC double-header may have had an impact on last night’s Grammy Awards, which fell to a six-year low. That’s also another hat tip to Saul — biggest cable adult demo debut ever and it was up against the Grammys!