‘Hunger Games:’ Darkness starts early

As I was complaining once again about the “Twilight” saga the other day, a pop-culture-savvy friend suggested I read Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy. So when I ran across the first installment in a store, I picked it up. Now I can’t put it down. It’s a brilliant, impeccably-paced book about a dystopian nation that rose from the ruins of North America, and it’s also a biting commentary on our culture of reality TV. (In essence it imagines what would happen if  “American Idol” were a death match instead of a singing competition.)

When I like something this much, I tend to get obsessed, which is why I’ve also been Googling reviews and Collins herself. One thing I learned: She’s in her late 40s. It always makes me happy when someone who’s been slogging away finds hard-won, mid-career success. Even more intriguing: She used to write for “Little Bear,” one of the preschool shows that’s on Jesse and Ava’s frequent-viewing list. At first, it seemed incongruous. How could someone so steeped in the gentle preschool world create something so gut-wrenchingly dark?  But when I think about it, “Little Bear” isn’t as cloyingly sweet as some of its competition. Out of the corner of my eye, I’ve seen goblins and funerals for dolls and bears who briefly take the shape of monsters. I’m going to have to watch more closely.

“Mad Men:” Groundhog Day

I miss blogging about TV. I miss blogging about TV more than I miss watching too much TV. And tonight’s “Mad Men” season finale made me want to blog. No, Don! No! Do not repeat history! Do not marry your secretary! Do not disappoint Peggy! Do not dump Faye! Do not turn into every other unimaginative ’60s office man!

Or maybe…do. Maybe Don proposing to Megan was the kick in the pants everybody needed. Bobby, Sally and Gene finally get a positive maternal figure. Betty finally gets real comeuppance for her cruel treatment of Carla. Peggy and Joan finally (finally!!!) get a reason to bond. Megan seems…nice enough. And savvy enough to have played Don like a violin with a little no-strings-attached office seduction that paves the way for a California tryst. And maybe Don saw Anna’s gift of a ring as a sign that she wanted him to restart his life. Maybe he really thought the planets had aligned.

But poor, poor Faye…punished for being ahead of her time, for making her way in the working world, for being bad with kids. If she had been good with kids, it might have been her in California.

And poor Peggy, getting upstaged by Don again, and knowing exactly, precisely, what’s going on.

And probably, poor Megan, who — as the “Groundhog Day” reference in the end suggests — will soon be the trophy wife who’s waiting at home with the kids while Don pursues yet another new thing. (“I Got You Babe,” playing in the morning, as history repeats itself? That couldn’t have been an accident.)

And poor me, who will have to wait many months until another new episode. Sigh.

Teachable moment

How do you explain parody to a six-year-old? The other evening, with Ava and Jesse in the room, we turned on our DVR’ed episode of “Saturday Night Live,” prepared to fast-forward through the blue parts. When we saw this spot-on parody of Miley Cyrus, we laughed uncontrollably. But Ava wasn’t amused. She loves Miley Cyrus – I just bought her a Hannah Montana mask for Halloween, after she resisted my efforts to steer her toward the kitty cat ears and tail — and she did not enjoy seeing her heroine besmirched. “You’re not supposed to tease,” she said.

On the positive side, this means she has internalized our messages about why she shouldn’t act like the kids on “iCarly.”  Still, I’m not sure she fully understood when we explained that Miley herself might not have minded this.  And I’m a wee bit worried that she now thinks Mommy and Daddy are meanies. Poor Miley!