More than 6 million people checked out the first two hours of the 20-hour miniseries "Taken" Monday night on Sci Fi -- the biggest audience ever for the 10-year-old cable network.

That's on par with the crowd that caught the return of "The Osbournes" on MTV one week earlier.

While the second two-hour installment of "Taken," on Tuesday, fell to 4.8 million -- an audience buildup from night to night is what a network hopes for -- that's still more than four times the 1.1 million viewers Sci Fi is averaging in prime time this season. Last week only two basic-cable programs, ESPN's NFL football and "The Osbournes," topped that 4.8 million.

Before Monday, Sci Fi's biggest audience had been the 5 million who tuned in to Part 1 of its "Dune" remake two years ago.

"Taken" follows three families over four generations and the role they play in the history of extraterrestrial encounters.

On Monday, it logged more viewers than UPN's sitcoms or WB's "Everwood" and came within 400,000 viewers of Fox's "World's Funniest Movie Outtakes" special.

On Tuesday, the sci-fi drama again drew more viewers than UPN or WB.

Sci Fi is available in about 80 million homes, as is MTV, the "Osbournes" network.

Reality is coming to daytime TV.

Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, the team behind "The Real World" and "Road Rules," have struck a deal with NBC's syndication operation to produce a daily one-hour "Real World"-meets-daytime-talk-TV show for first-run syndication.

"Starting Over," targeted for fall 2003, will watch six women living in a house as they try to get their lives together. Each woman will have a goal in mind -- losing lots of weight, getting a high school diploma, leaving a deadbeat boyfriend -- the stuff of daytime talk TV. And the women will hold each other accountable for achieving those goals. Those who succeed "graduate" from the house to their new lives; those who do not get booted back to their former lives. They will be replaced by new housemates and it starts all over again.

Murray and Bunim are not strangers to daytime and local TV. Murray spent six years in local TV news, and Bunim was executive producer on "Search for Tomorrow," "As the World Turns," "Santa Barbara" and "Loving."

NBC Enterprises, which also syndicates "Access Hollywood," "The John Walsh Show," "The Chris Matthews Show" and "The George Michael Sports Machine," among others, has committed to 39 weeks of the new show.

Curling is back!

NBC Sports, which made curling a household word during the Salt Lake City Olympics, has agreed to broadcast the U.S. National Curling Championships and World Curling Championships in 2003.

USA Curling -- who knew there actually was such an organization -- and NBC Sports have reached an agreement to broadcast two hour-long championship curling events next year: the U.S. Men's and Women's National Championships in Utica, N.Y., which will be broadcast March 15, and the 2003 World Curling Championships from Winnipeg, Manitoba, on April 20.

"After sweeping in obscurity for the previous 500 years, curling was transported into the light in February," USA Curling Executive Director David Garber said in a statement yesterday.

And he got it right. Why, when NBC turned MSNBC into Must Show Nothing But Curling during the 2002 Olympics, the cable news network nearly quadrupled its ratings. And yet, for reasons we cannot explain, it then decided that the answer to MSNBC's ratings woes was Phil Donahue. He has nothing to do with curling.

Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith is getting his broadcast gig back. The Fox broadcast network will return the Smith-hosted newsmagazine "The Pulse," which had a short summer run, to its schedule on Jan. 23. The newsmag is heading into Fox's sinkhole Thursday 9 p.m. time slot opposite CBS's "CSI," NBC's "Will & Grace" and ABC's "The Bachelorette."

Shep's on a roll these days, celebrating his second consecutive month edging out CNN's "Larry King Live," with 1.37 million viewers in November for "The Fox Report," compared with King's 1.35 million.

Smith's 7 p.m. FNC show was, in fact, the No. 3 cable news program in November, behind only FNC's "The O'Reilly Factor," which averaged nearly 2.4 million viewers, and "Hannity & Colmes," with a 1.6 million average. (King was No. 4 for the month -- not far ahead of Brit Hume's FNC newscast, which averaged nearly 1.2 million.) Those shows are among the reasons FNC was the only cable news network with increased viewership in November compared with last year. Its full-day average was 765,000 viewers and its prime-time average of 1.4 million viewers whomped CNN's prime-time 921,000 and MSNBC's 379,000.

Nominees for the 29th annual People's Choice Awards were announced yesterday and, as usual, it's a wacky lineup.

Once again, a nationwide poll conducted by the Gallup Organization determined the nominees and winners. No suggestions of entries or nominees were given to the people being polled. And yet, virtually no cable TV shows are nominated, and some of the shows that made the cut will leave you scratching your head.

Like this year's nominees for fave new TV comedy: That list includes "The Bernie Mac Show" which -- hello -- is not a new show, as well as "Cedric the Entertainer Presents" and "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter."

And the nominees for America's fave new TV drama predictably include "CSI: Miami" and "Everwood" but also hospital drama "Presidio Med," which hardly anyone in the country has watched -- except apparently the folks polled by Gallup.

This year's nominees for best TV drama are "CSI," "ER" and "Law & Order." Best-sitcom nominees are "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Friends" and "Will & Grace."

Up for fave reality TV show are NBC's "Fear Factor," MTV's "Real World: Las Vegas" and "Survivor: Thailand."

Nominees for male TV performer are Matt LeBlanc, Bernie Mac and Ray Romano; female contenders are Jennifer Aniston, Patricia Heaton, Debra Messing. Procter & Gamble is producing the made-for-TV trophy show, which will air on CBS Jan. 12.

Joel Gretsch in a scene from "Taken." The Sci Fi channel drew its biggest audience ever on Monday for the opening segment of the 20-hour miniseries.