Saturday, March 15, 2008


Oooooh! Sounds positively skiffy, don't it?

"Hellooooo.... Newman."
Jerry Seinfeld

In the past here I've mentioned that character names as spelled in the credits are not to be taken as fact in the TV Universe, since there could be changes within the actual show. In the last year I've seen this happen with episodes of 'Burke's Law' and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'.

And now I'm dismissing the name of a character as it is seen in the credits, but not because of a discrepancy with the program. It was probably meant the way it was written. However, it doesn't serve the greater good of Toobworld that way. And in this case especially, it's somewhat fitting to say that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one.

Leonard Nimoy appeared twice on 'Combat!'; his episodes separated by two years. But basically the characters were the same - soldiers attached to Sgt. Saunders' squad who were most useful because they spoke German, and fluently at that.

However, in his first appearance he was known as "Neumann" ("The Wounded Don't Cry"), and in "The Raider" he was called "Baum".It's my contention that these two characters were one and the same man, and that his name always was Baum.

It's that name "Neumann" as seen in the credits with which I'm taking issue. We hear him addressed as Neumann, but we never hear him referred to as Private Neumann, just Neumann.

What I'm always striving for is to find the simplest splainin as to the discrepancies of Toobworld. So instead of saying that there were two men attached to Saunders' squad who looked remarkably similar and then finding the reason why (identical cousins?), I'd prefer to find a reason why they can't be one and the same man, despite the name difference.

So here's my Occam's Razor splainin: When he was being addressed as "Neumann", Nimoy's character's name was really Baum. But he was new to the unit and that led to him getting a nickname. What we're hearing is not "Neumann" but "New Man". Had it been taking place today, they'd be calling him "Newbie".

(I remember in the movie "The Big Red One", which was based on director Samuel Fuller's experiences during World War II, the more seasoned soldiers in the squad tried to keep their distance from the new guys. There was some kind of superstition that they would be quicker to get killed in the next battle. Perhaps by tagging these guys with nicknames, it was a way to keep them ostracized.)

Only after "New Man" nearly died by stopping a Gestapo officer from killing them all with a potato masher did they stop calling him New Man and begin using his given name of Baum.

Perhaps they sometimes tweaked it to sound like the more Germanic spelling of "Neumann", or even wrote it out that way if they mentioned him in letters back home, because he was the go-to guy when it came to speaking German to their prisoners. That way, we can still allow for the spelling found in the end credits.

Does it really matter? Of course not! Let's face it, none of this does! But it's fun, so stuff it.

With this splainin, we don't have to worry about two Leonard Nimoy characters running around Occupied Europe during the Big One. Because I know somebody would want to claim that one of them was really Mr. Spock, sent back by the Guardian of the Gate of Forever!

Oh... just one more thing....

It's also my contention that Private Baum has a teenaged son back home in the States whose heart is set on becoming a professional magician. One day he'll go by the name of "The Amazing Paris" - perhaps it's a stage name he adopts to honor the fact that his father took part in the liberation of Paris, France? ('Mission: Impossible')

Toby OB

"Perhaps there's more to Newman than meets the eye."
Elaine Benes


Brian Leonard said...

Couldn't he just be "Neumann Baum"?

Toby O'B said...

I like simple. But not THAT simple!