Y2K BORES THE PUBLIC

Y2K BORES THE PUBLIC

ometimes art relects reality. Sometimes it reflects public perception. And sometimes it reflects both - or at least we hope it does.

NBC's TV thriller abut a national Y2K disaster was hyped as a 1999 version of Orson Welles' classic ''War of the Worlds,'' the radio play about a Martian invasion that spooked much of America 61 years earlier.The movie depicted chaos erupting when 1999 became 2000 and unreadied computers couldn't cope, including electricity failure, a nuclear plant meltdown and prison doors swinging open. Government agencies and businesses from banks to utilities scrambled in advance to calm what they anticipated would be a badly frightened public.

But the event didn't match the expectations. In fact, it fell far below them.

The movie went off on schedule Sunday, and much of America wasn't scared at all. In fact, much of America couldn't be bothered to watch. Competing television shows - programs like a farm tale called ''Sarah, Plain & Tall,'' the science-fiction program ''X-Files'' and the legal soap opera ''The Practice'' drew bigger audiences. The wire services, which over the weekend had been full of stories about the preparations, had almost nothing on Monday.

While there may be relatively minor Y2K problems, major ones appear unlikely. People apparently realize it. To paraphrase Lincoln, you can't scare all of the public all of the time.