Jennifer Hudson

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards scored its second-highest ratings ever Sunday as the music industry paid tribute to Whitney Houston, while the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead scared up big numbers as well.

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The three-and-a-half-hour broadcast nearly doubled last year's viewership with a staggering 39 million viewers — second only to the 51 million who tuned in to the 1984 telecast, during which Michael Jackson won a record eight awards.

Compared to last year's ceremony, the show was up 40 percent in the adults 18-to-49 demo, nabbing a 14.1. The rating is the highest since 1990, when Milli Vanilli won Best New Artist (which was later revoked).

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The surge is likely due to Houston's unexpected death on Saturday. During the show, Jennifer Hudson performed "I Will Always Love You" in the six-time Grammy winner's honor.

On cable, The Walking Dead's winter premiere drew 8.1 million viewers — up from the 7.3 million who watched the fall opener. It also scored 5.4 million viewers in the demo and 4.4 million viewers in the adults 25-to-54 demo, making it the strongest telecast for any drama in basic cable history.

The series premiere of Kevin Smith's Comic Book Men followed the zombie hit with 2 million viewers and a 1.3 rating.

8 p.m.
CBS:
54th Annual Grammy Awards 39 million viewers (14.1 demo rating) [8-11:30 p.m.]
ABC: Once Upon a Time 8.64 million viewers (3.0)
Fox: The Simpsons 4.3 million viewers (2.0); Napoleon Dynamite 3.8 million viewers (1.7)
NBC: Dateline 2.05 million (1.6) [7-9 p.m.]

9 p.m.
ABC: Desperate Housewives 6.3 million viewers (1.7)
Fox: Family Guy 5 million viewers (2.5); American Dad! 3.5 million viewers (1.7)
NBC: Fear Factor 3.7 million viewers (1.5) [9-11 p.m.]

10 p.m.
ABC: Pan Am 2.7 million (0.7)