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January 07, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: "The Last Word."

Where: Fox Sports Net (Fox Sports West in L.A.)

When: Midnight, Monday-Friday.

The first word on "The Last Word" is potential. If you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a TV show after one episode. But after the debut of "The Last Word" Monday night, the initial reaction is that the foundation is there, but the show needs work.

Nothing wrong with the co-hosts, syndicated radio talk show host Jim Rome and New York Post sports columnist Wallace Matthews. They're bright, energetic and opinionated. The idea of the show is to match a hip, West Coast attitude against an East Coast attitude, whatever that is.

The problem, it seemed, was that the show was not topical and lacked direction. It was like, OK, let's argue about Scottie Pippen for five minutes then move on to another topic.

The question was, why did Pippen lead the show on a busy sports-news day? Well, there is an answer.

John Terenzio, co-executive producer of the show, said when Rome showed up for Monday's taping, he was so sick with flu he couldn't go on. Monday night's show had been taped Friday as an emergency backup.

Instead of leading off with the NFL playoff games and Don Sutton and the Hall of Fame, we got Pippen and Tom Osborne and college athletics in general and a discussion about who was the best big man ever in the NBA.

The show has Rome in an L.A. studio and Matthews in a New York studio, which viewers are going to have to get used to. And Rome and Matthews are going to have to improve their timing. They talked over each other a few times.

One of the two hosts will have an in-studio guest each night. For the first show, Matthews had Mike Brown, basketball coach at Division III Hunter College in New York. He had given up an $80,000-a-year job as an assistant coach at West Virginia to take a $5,000-a-year job at Hunter to get away from the hypocrisy and pressure in Division I. He was a decent guest.

Pete Rose joined Rome in the L.A. studio for the second show Tuesday night, and he was a better guest. And the show was more topical.

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