Bob Sassone of TV Squad discusses "The Magnificent Marble Machine" and links to a YouTube presentation of what is possibly the only existing episode of the short-lived 1976 series.
Sassone gives all the facts correctly. The program was a concoction of the Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley production company, which had greater successess with stuff like "High Rollers" and "The Hollywood Squares".
At the time of the show, pinball was ruling the arcades, with Gottlieb (Surfer, Bank Shot, Buccaneer), Williams (Space Mission, Aztec), Bally (Black Jack, Night Rider, Old Chicago) and Chicago Coin (Cinema, Sound Stage) putting oustanding product on location. (Of those four companies, only Chicago Coin still is in the pin biz under the name Stern.)
So why didn't this game show work? Because of its size, the machine action is very clunky, and the camera angles favored by director Jerome Shaw did little to enhance the action. Celebrities included the likes of Florence Henderson, Gary Burghoff, Leslie Uggams, Earl Holliman... you know the type. And one wonders if host Art James was aware of the absurdity of the whole exercise and just played along because he was such a pro.
The one thing that was improved about the show since this episode - which I believe was the fourth episode produced - was that music man Mort Garson eventually came up with more cues for the front-game ticker. And I do believe that NBC eventually demanded the show convert to an all-star format, which proved that the network didn't learn their lesson from tinkering with "Baffle" in the same way several years earlier.
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