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.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-62223-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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