Marble Mania

By | January 22, 2021

This started on SBS6 in the Netherlands last night, if you are knowledgeable in the VPN Dark Arts you can watch it here, I’m afraid there’s not much on Youtube right now but here are the titles:

We have a long-running ‘joke’ at Bother’s Bar about our own format The Road to Sortition, a quiz version of marble racing, the greatest untapped format in the last ten years do call us, so we were surprised and interested to see that John De Mol has got there first. Marble racing is brilliant, effectively they’re just lotteries but the draw machines (the courses, if you will) make them compelling for minutes at a time. We don’t need draw machine Merlin, physics is its own kind of magic, right gang? We’re also interested to learn that Jelle of popular Youtube channel Jelle’s Marble Runs is involved in this.

Three celebs battle it out for €30,000 for charity. They’ll play three games to earn marbles for three courses, and positioning well on those courses gives you an advantage in the final run.

By far and away the weakest element of the show is these Small Fortune-esque minigames. Really there’s only so much you can dress up rolling marbles by hand – in the first episode we have trying to roll a marble into a goal whilst the opponents roll their own marble to block, hitting perspex letters, and probably the best one marble curling. They’re not especially compelling, and if they weren’t being played by naturally competitive people (ex-footballers yesterday) would barely qualify as television.

Winning each event earns three marbles in the race, second two and third one (if there’s a tie, they do a shootout on a brick surface to determine positions) and this is where the show comes to life a bit, with rather excellent looking marble race courses, each with its own theme (A Funfair! Outside! A Carwash!) which they’ve gone to town on both in terms of dressing up and in terms of having relevant obstacles (A Ferris Wheel! A Test-your-strength Hammer! A Merry-go-round! A Carwash! Foam!) Each marble scores 0-5 points for its owner depending on which position it finishes the race in.

In the final, 6,000 marbles are poured into the machine (3,000 for the person with the most points, 2,000 for second, 1,000 for third). These then race down a massive track, mixing up, until they get to a choke point – the first 100 marbles go in one bin, the second 100 in a second and a third 100 in a third, the rest are discarded. These marbles race down quite a slow spiral slope, ending with a few mechanical obstacles, for the money – the marbles in bin 3 race for €5,000, bin 2 €10,000 and finally bin one for €15,000. For me the first part of the final lacks the lots-of-marbles-doing-a-thing interest that videos might have, and the second part of the final is surprisingly low intensity considering.

So the marble racing element is strong in the main, other elements not so. There’s a virtual audience stadium around the whole thing which is quite fun and the whole thing feels a little bit like a fever dream. Interested to see who de Mol sells it to over here, inevitably.

7 thoughts on “Marble Mania

  1. James

    The first episode did very well for SBS6 on a competitive night – 1.40m (19.2%) – their biggest launch for a new show in a while. It’s already been commissioned by German RTL.

    A strong opener considering that De Slimste Mens has been on fire of late. The most watched series to date, with the final last night watched by 3.26m (37.4%). That’s NPO2’s biggest audience since 2006.

  2. Mark A

    I could totally see ITV commissioning this for their Saturday night line up, in the 7pm/pre-BGT slot. I’m thinking Chris Kamara as host.

  3. Jason

    Episode 2 held steady at 1.37m according to ( )

    Unfortunately, there is a nasty taste developing from the TV show, as it appears Jelle’s Marble Runs are *not* involved in the program after all. According to r/JellesMarbleRuns (, De Mol is alleged to have changed the terms of the contract to exclude a share of international broadcast rights – Jelle and Dion couldn’t accept that and walked away in the early days. De Mol continued to develop the format and has already sold it to Germany.

    It seems like Talpa Media are digging the hole, with Paul Romer suggesting that you can’t copyright an idea, but you can protect a TV format? Given the state of YouTube broadcasting today, would be quite the stretch to suggest a 100-episode-a-year format is an “idea”…

    Going to be one for the lawyers I can imagine, but the court of public opinion in the Netherlands seems to be on Jelle’s side right now…

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      It’s fair to say I trust World’s Best Salesman John de Mol as far as I can throw him so this is all very sad really.

      Some links:

      1. Alex McMillan

        ‘Marble Mania is a new low point in Dutch television history.’

        Bloody hell, I think we know what will be topping the Hal van Schaamte this year!

    2. A tiny stool pigeon

      The company I work for has started a format pitching competition in-house that clearly stated that any idea sent in might be turned into a format, but since all the things we’ll propose will only be seen as ideas that have to be fully developed you won’t get any money, except when you are in the top three, though the winning idea would get less than a month’s salary for a person that is very far down the ranks. Legally speaking they seem to be right in that an idea cannot be protected in the country I live in, while a format would be. Anyways I think it’s morally questionable.

  4. David

    Yeah- sounds like JdM tried to pull a fast one on them- plus the fact Jelle is autistic and it seems like they tried to take advantage makes Talpa look even worse..


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.