When you think about it, scary movie directors have it quite easy. After working their asses off (presumably) to make a horror flick, psychological thriller, or bleak sci-fi picture, crafting as many effective jump shocks and as dread-soaked a mood as possible, the filmmakers’ finished products have the fortunate opportunity of playing in darkly lit, confined theaters. And there’s no better place to watch a really good horror film—earlier this year, for instance, ticket-buyers flocked to multiplexes to check out Insidious because, showing in a pitch-black setting with dozens of energetic moviegoers, the scares hit that much harder.

Storytellers working in the television medium don’t have that luxury. In addition to commercials (for shows not on HBO or Showtime), TV showrunners have to contend with viewers’ endless other distractions: telephone calls, the “Pause” button on DVR remotes, bathroom breaks for people and their dogs, and gluttonous trips to the pantry for potato chips and/or candy bars, amongst other disturbances away from the respective show’s intended terror.

So when a TV show actually manages to scare the hell out of audiences, it’s something to celebrate. Case in point: AMC’s zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead, which returns for its long-awaited, twice-as-long second season this Sunday night, at 10 p.m. EST. Based on comic book author Robert Kirkman’s popular Image Comics title, The Walking Dead takes advantage of practical effects master Greg Nicotero’s gruesome zombie makeup work, giving every episode at least one major living dead attack sequence.

And, as with any good horror sequel or follow-up, The Walking Dead’s new season promises to work in even more gore, tension, and undead mayhem. All of this flesh-ripping excitement has inspired us to look back on television’s history with frightening programs, a lineage that’s currently benefitting from both The Walking Dead and FX’s wild new haunted house mind-bender American Horror Story. Turn off the lights and curl up on the nearest couch as we count down The 50 Scariest TV Shows Of All Time.

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)