The Magnificent Marble Machine Part 4





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Published on Oct 31, 2008

The Magnificent Marble Machine was an American television game show hosted by Art James and based on pinball.

Two contestants (one a returning champion) competed, each paired with a celebrity partner.
In the first half of the game, the teams answered general knowledge questions, frequently involving puns or other wordplay, which were displayed on a huge electronic marquee. First, the players were shown blanks on the bottom line, denoting the number of words and letters in the answer; then a clue would crawl across the upper line. If no team buzzed in once the clue was revealed, letters of the answer then filled in at random as time progressed.
For any given question, only the contestant or the celebrity would be eligible to buzz in; this alternated with each question, and was indicated by lighted panels in front of the eligible player.
Correct answers were worth one point, and five points allowed the winning team to advance to the game's second stage playing a giant pinball machine (20 feet high and 12 feet long, located in the middle of the set) that served as The Magnificent Marble Machine's centerpiece.
Each team member manipulated one flipper button (each controlling two flippers), and it was the team's goal to keep the ball in play for as long as possible within a 60-second time limit while accumulating points by hitting bumpers, noisemakers and lights. Hitting one of seven of the large numbered bumpers won the contestant prizes; hitting bumpers numbered 2 and 3 in combination won a larger announced prize (such as a car or trip). Play ended if it fell into one of the two "out holes" (one located below the main flippers, the other in the middle of the playing field). The flippers were disabled when 60 seconds expired, with the ball (still in play) usually entering an out hole within a few seconds. At some point during the series a bonus prize was added for hitting all seven numbered bumpers at least once. In the original format, each bumper scored 500 points while any noisemaker scored 200 points. Producers audited the score by watching the tape, to ensure that each scoring feature had registered. Apparently, as the machine aged (week by week), scoring errors increased, so the producers changed the rules to have any of the seven "thumper bumpers" counting 500 points, with nothing else scoring. While the ball was in play, a music cue would play in the background entitled "The Marble Rolls" by Mort Garson, who wrote all of the music for this series. If a team reached a target score after playing two balls (15,000 for each new champion, minus 1,000 for each return visit), the team played a bonus "gold money ball," where the player earned money ($200 for each noisemaker and bumper, later $500 for each numbered bumper). As the target was lowered from game to game, the money ball round became easier to reach. At some point in the series run, the "gold money ball" was redesigned to be a multi-player "money ball marathon" rather than a bonus round any player might be able to achieve in any one play of the machine. The contestant achieving the top point score over a two week period would be awarded a money ball round. This format lasted for five marathons. The money ball was later dropped from the game altogether. Later, the electronic point counters on the pinball machine were covered over. Contestants then only played for prizes obtained by hitting the seven bumpers.


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