Thursday, May 30, 2013
The Magnificent Marble Machine
Pinball was all the rage in the mid-1970s, exploding in popularity when new solid-state, electronic machines from Bali and Atari attracted a new generation of enthusiasts beginning in 1976. It was a boon for ailing bowling lanes who were surprised to find their arcade machines by the door raking in more cash than the ball and shoe rentals.
NBC sought to cash in on the phenomenon with The Magnificent Marble Machine, debuting in the summer of 1975 when kids were home from school. TMMM was a typical 1970s game show in most ways, with contestants and stars competing in a silly word game. What set it apart was the big money round played on an enormous pinball machine where a contestant could win up to $50,000 ($250,000 in today's dough). The contraption was a clumsy device, being so large meant the most exciting part of the competition happened at a snail's pace. It was also prone to breaking down a lot, leading to long taping days and a reputation as one of the most disastrous game shows of all time.
After strong initial ratings the audience quickly grew bored and moved on.
Partly to reconfigure the machine, the program was retooled in January of 1976 so that only the stars played the final round but the production was scrapped in the summer of '76.
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