Wednesday, January 9, 2002, 12:00 AM
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Carson Daly's much-hyped start as the host of a late-night show on NBC never materialized Monday night. The show, "Last Call With Carson Daly," was taped and ready to go, but a last-minute contractual flap forced NBC to shelve the program. Instead, viewers saw a rerun of "SCTV" that included an onscreen crawl telling them Daly's show would not air. The switch was a surprise to Daly's fans and a shock to some inside the network, who were standing by Monday at 1:35 a.

m. (actually early Tuesday) to see the series' launch. "We were unable to close the deal with Carson Daly for the new late-night show 'Last Call With Carson Daly,' " said an NBC spokeswoman said early yesterday. "We're working toward a resolution and we're hopeful we can move forward with the show.

" That resolution came later in the day, when Daly and NBC reached a deal, and the show aired last night. NBC had gone to great lengths to give Daly a reasonably sound launching pad on Monday, making the contract hiccup noticeable. Typically, "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" is a rerun on Mondays. But to help boost Daly's series, O'Brien & Co. produced an original show Monday night and are set to have new shows each night this week, with the exception of Friday. Besides pulling out an extra show to help boost "Last Call," O'Brien also appeared on one of Daly's practice shows. And at the end of his telecast Monday - taped earlier in the evening - O'Brien plugged Daly's launch. Daly's show, a mix of interviews and music, is taped in front of a studio audience in NBC's Studio 8H at Rockefeller Center. On Monday, he taped one interview with Gwyneth Paltrow, originally scheduled for last night's telecast, and another with Alicia Keys, who was to be Monday's guest. Keys appeared last night. "Last Call" is an updated version of NBC's "Later" series, which had been on and off the schedule in recent years. That show originated in 1988 with Bob Costas as host. It gave the sportscaster a platform to conduct long interviews with a variety of guests, earning him and the series great reviews. Costas left in 1994 and was replaced by Greg Kinnear. When Kinnear left two years later, NBC relied on a series of temporary hosts to fill the seat, eventually settling on Cynthia Garrett. Last year, the network pulled the show off the air, choosing to air reruns of "SCTV" instead. "Last Call with Carson Daly" is part of a three-year deal Daly signed with NBC Studios, the network's production division, in August.

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