There's a generation who remember where they were when JFK was shot. These moments punctuate our lives like punctuation. I can even recall some kids wearing black armbands at school when John Lennon was rubbed out. Others can easily recall the place and time when they heard about Diana coming to her full stop in that Parisian tunnel. But where were you when Thingee's eye popped out? For many the answer is simple. "I was watching it on TV."
Even Wikipedia knows our national puppet, and describes Thingee as 'a humanoid with large bulbous eyes.' But Thingee wasn't human, far from it. He was actually a duck. One of his creators, TV writer and director Stephen J Campbell, told me recently that he was based on some sketches of a duck, and that his name was initially just a placeholder while they thought of a better one. Of course they never did.
He began his TV career inside an egg on the set of After School, the show that also gave rise to his human side-kick Jason Gunn. The foetal mallard sat on set for several weeks inside an egg before hatching into an unsuspecting prepubescent world.
Jason and Thingee then fronted The Son of a Gunn Show in the 1990s and it was there that the bulbous-eyed humanoid duck lost one of his eyes live on air. One moment it was staring blankly from his motionless face, the next, well, the rest is history. It really is a gem and some consider it to be the moment that this country truly became a nation. No offence to Gallipoli.
The moment was such a taonga that it featured each week in the title sequence to a show I worked on called Eating Media Lunch, which, like the Legendary TV Moments Collection was a kind of celebration of our television culture, although more often than not it was an unkind celebration. We were also lucky enough to retain the services of Thingee and his handler, Alan Henderson, for several episodes of The Unauthorised History of New Zealand. Both were charming company, however the 'duck' was a tad boorish after a few drinks.
- Paul Casserly is an award-winning writer and director whose credits include six years of satire show Eating Media Lunch, Birdland and Havoc. He writes about television for The NZ Herald and website The Spinoff.