An entertaining autopsy of a failed NBC TV drama/comedy. Don't worry if you never saw or even heard of a show called ""Smoldering Lust"" -- or ""A Black Tie Affair,"" as it was retitled. The program lasted only a few episodes. Though it had potential, with $9 million spent on production, the talent of award-winning writer/creator Jay Tarses (""The Carol Burnett Show,"" ""The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd"") and actress Kate Capshaw (also Mrs. Steven Spielberg), and themes like adultery and murder, the project quickly faced trouble. Shaky network support, quirky writing, and a confusing title soon gave way to larger problems: a seven-month delay before airing, bad test results from a sample audience, disputes with the network's top brass, a debut in a bad time slot on Saturday night at 10 P.M. over Memorial Day weekend, and many negative reviews. While he delivers a lot of bad news, former Life writer Muse makes it interesting, providing colorful chapters on everything from shopping for the characters' upscale wardrobes, building and decorating the sets, and scoring the show to basics like scripting, casting, and shooting. He populates the scene behind the scenes with comic episodes and likable, three-dimensional characters who really seem to love what they do, and he avoids easy stereotypes. For instance, Tarses is a seasoned and philosophical TV veteran with high standards and a desire to nurture young talent; Capshaw is an artist, not a pampered star; and the censor at Standards and Practices is laid back and accommodating. Muse remains fairly sympathetic to the doomed show until the book's final pages, when, with hindsight, the author becomes the expert. ""Might the series have succeeded if all thirteen episodes had aired, in a hot spot on a good night, and under the original title? No way...someone probably should have prevented this expensive disaster from happening."" Overall, a small tale well told.