Now at this time in my delicate development, there occurred a television comedy that gave me pause. In fact, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis—which was such a classic that its name can safely be shortened to Dobie in any company over 35—this was a semi-autobiographical comedy about the sexual misadventures of a post-adolescent. The series was funnier than most, and had a lot going for it—Bob Denver’s immortal creation of the beatnik Maynard G. Krebbs (even better than his second immortal creation, Gilligan), the delights of the gorgeous Tuesday Weld in the early episodes and Frank Faylen’s eternally hassled father figure. Best of all were those wonderful monologues delivered straight to camera by Dwayne Hickman as the protagonist, placed before a looming replica of Rodan’s thinker, which, while an inferior imitation of George Burns’ discourses on Gracie Allen’s antics, was nevertheless a television milestone.
So what was the problem? This! Here was a TV presentation of an exact contemporary of myself, same age, same situation—albeit American and from slightly wealthier circumstances—and in theory his concerns and feelings and activities should have held up some sort of mirror to my own life. It did nothing of the kind. Keenly aware of this fact from the first episode, weekly I hunted for some slight sign, some wee moment, when the events on-screen might have been connected—however minimally—to some aspect of my life. It never happened. Not one millisecond—not even the vaguest parallel. Was America truly on a different planet? (If only… sighs the rest of the world)
Slowly a much more horrible truth dawned on me. You just could not believe everything you saw on television.
Still it has to be admitted that at about the same time, Briggs discovered that I was his worst ever student—indeed he could only regard my class work as some sort of satanic miracle.
I could draw a straight line that was not the shortest distance between two points; I could draw circles possessing radii that were not the same in all directions; I could draw squares the equal sides of which somehow formed an oblong. It was completely distressing, and Metamorphosis is reported to have declared publicly that the only good thing about my work was that most of it tended to disappear under a cloud of grubby fingerprints and spilled ink. A tatty sullen boy who invariably arrived in class having forgotten his pencil or ruler...