Despite a slow start and a notoriously complicated storyline, Sci Fi Channel's adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune
became the most-watched program in the network's history.
The three-night mini-series pulled in a 4.6 rating with 3 million homes on its first installment on Sunday, Dec. 3. Over all three nights, it averaged a 4.4/2.9 million households, doubling all viewership records for Sci Fi and placing it among the top 10 of basic cable's original miniseries in the past five years. Two of the three installments also rated among the year' top 10 original cable movies.
is the futuristic tale of a universe balanced on the ever fragile control of spice, a narcotic necessary for stellar navigation. The sole source of spice is Arakis, a desert planet inhabited by monstrous sandworms the size of small skyscrapers. Characters of biblical proportion battle for control of Arakis.
With an extensive history preceding the tale of the fight for Arakis, screen adaptions of the series of novels have misfired before. A theatrical release in the mid-1980s bombed after being edited so much to shorten it that theaters had to issue a cheat sheet so the uninitiated could follow the storyline. Sci Fi's six-hour miniseries was able to stay true to the novel without getting bogged down in Herbert's esoterica. And gigantic computer-generated sandworms munching down huge machines and people like popcorn probably didn't hurt Sci Fi's numbers either.
The miniseries is a decided home run in Sci Fi's first year of extensive programming investment: $146 million, up from around $86 million in 1999, according to Kagan & Associates numbers.
On the other end of the scale, the network's clumsy, first-time live coverage of the legendary Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was widely panned. Among new series, Crossing Over With John Edward
created some initial buzz, but numbers softened as the newness wore off, and Exposure,
a series showcasing short, independent films, never generated much noise. Traditional science-fiction series like Babylon 5, The Outer Limits
and Invisible Man
continue to be the network's workhorses, with movies and events bringing in the occasional ratings spike.