New Zealand television icon Thingee made a shock TV comeback during the cricket on Sunday. Hayden Donnell spoke to our most famous expat extraterrestrial about whether this could pave the way for a reunion with his old friend Jason Gunn.
People tuning into the cricket on Sunday would’ve expected to be rewarded with some slow, grinding test match batting. In their wildest dreams, they may have half-hoped to see BJ Watling working singles to third man for hours on end. Somehow they saw something even better. Just before 4pm viewers watching the Dilmah Tea Party became eyewitnesses to the return of a Kiwi legend – one we thought might be gone for good. Our most beloved afternoon TV alien, Thingee, was back… and he’d had a makeover.
Thingee has seldom been seen since leaving New Zealand for his home planet following the final episode of The Son of a Gunn Show in 1995. He’s made only a handful of media appearances, most notably in a cameo role on Jono & Ben. His absence hasn’t quelled New Zealand’s thirst for Thingee content. Last year, youth web zine The Spinoff devoted an entire article to the infamous moment his eye popped out.
Thingee gave the Dilmah Tea Party a behind the scenes tour of Sky TV’s cricket coverage, going around razzing members of the various departments. He seemed well-acquainted with the crew, only failing to recognise one person: producer Alan Henderson.
Central Pulse netballer Katrina Grant, a guest on the Dilmah Tea Party, was happy to see Thingee again. Asked by host Laura McGoldrick if she remembered the former children’s television presenter she replied “of course, he’s a Kiwi icon.” Grant’s English teammate Sara Bayman appeared confused by Thingee’s cameo. “I’m a bit weirded out right now,” she confessed, “I’ve got no idea what’s going on.”
Former John Campbell collaborator Ali Ikram said Thingee appeared to be the same alien in many respects – though he had a different look.
“He seems to be vinyl which is a disappointment though may now wipe clean which is an advantage.”
But what was the story behind Thingee’s surprise return? Could he stay in New Zealand long-term this time? And most importantly of all, with the cricket moving to Hagley Park in Christchurch next, would Thingee finally have his long-awaited reunion with his estranged friend, Jason Gunn?
I tracked Thingee down and put those questions to him and more during a sometimes-feisty journalistic exchange.
He said his TV comeback came about after he illegally entered the country to watch the cricket.
“I spotted a loophole with immigration and Customs and managed to sneak back into New Zealand. But this only between you and me. No-one’s allowed to know because technically I’m an alien and not allowed in the country.”
Thingee was hopeful he could stay long enough to catch up with his old TV sparring partner Jason Gunn. The next cricket test is in Christchurch, where Gunn runs several media ventures including his YouTube channel and Facebook page.
“Hopefully I’m going to be. To be honest he doesn’t run very fast so I should be able to catch up with him. He’s quite lackadaisical at times. Hopefully though I’ll be able to catch up with him in Christchurch, maybe around the cricket in Hagley perhaps.”
He’d retreated into the safety of a joke, but I sensed there was some great reservoir of pain behind Thingee’s words. Why had he and Gunn never been seen together in public since they parted more than 20 years ago? Was there a rift between these on-screen best friends? Something bigger and more uncrossable than the distance between Thingee’s home planet and Gunn’s hometown of Christchurch?
“I can neither confirm or deny anything. It’s above my pay scale to actually mention anything unfortunately,” he said.
At this point, Thingee changed the topic. He explained his vinyl-like appearance was due to “clean living and exfoliation,” though acknowledged some would use the word botox. Was he still the same Thingee we knew from Son of a Gunn despite his vastly changed appearance?
“I am the same Thingee and I don’t think they’ve cloned me because I’m not related to myself. I’ll just put the phone down while I… I was going to say touch myself. Yes, still here.”
Thingee also expressed a hope that he’d be back on New Zealand TV in a more full-time role.
“All letters should be addressed to the Minister of Broadcasting c/o Parliament House in Wellington and who knows what might happen.”
“‘Never say never’ as my good friend James Bond said.”
– Additional reporting: Calum Henderson
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