Rube Goldberg Machines and Inventions in Television


Rube Goldberg had gotten so popular that even television had featured him or some examples of his machines.

The X Files

In a 1999 episode of the popular television series The X Files, a variation of the Rube Goldberg machine is featured.

The episode, entitled “The Goldberg Variation” questions the role of fate in tragedies and important life events. A man called Henry Weems seems to have some uncanny luck. He wins big money and gets out of tough scrapes, uninjured. It turns out that he has a fascination with Rube Goldberg machines and had survived a 1989 plane crash, where he had taken seat number thirteen on flight number seven. It also turns out that Weems was trying to raise 100,000 dollars to get a sick boy the proper treatment he needs. In the end, some events have been set into motion involving the boy Richie, Weems himself and the mobster Cutrona, whom Weems had defeated in a game of poker to get the exact amount of money that he needed. A complicated series of events ensues, mimicking that of the Rube Goldberg effect, ending in the mobster becoming an organ donor for Richie.

There was a lot of luck and chance involved in the X Files episode that one could not help but think of Rube Goldberg machines. Of course, the episode has taken the clearer, I am going to explain everything route. Its title, after all, is the Goldberg Variation.

Educational Programs

Educational television shows for kids, such as Sesame Street, has also used the Rube Goldberg machine as an example when showing children the result of interaction or cause and effect. Other educational shows such as The Electric Company also do the same with its What Happens Next segments. The visually appealing way of presenting the rules of physics engages the attention of young learners.

The Honda Commercial

Some may think that the Honda television commercial was made possible through the use of animation. After all, it looked very complicated – and it was. It took more than 600 takes before the whole thing could be shot in real time. The commercial plus the whole advertising campaign was said to cost six million dollars. Certainly, the commercial alone could have cost a lot of money, having taken several weeks to create and considering the several takes. The company also had to pay a lot of money every time the commercial got aired because it lasted all of two minutes. Even the wheels rolling up a ramp had a simple explanation though the whole thing got complicated because it did not make use of animated tricks. The commercial was Rube Goldberg-inspired.


Rube Goldberg had become very famous for being a comic illustrator. He was able to produce a number of invention comics. He was recognized and continued to be recognized in cartoon circles. However, he was not only recognized in his own field but had gained fame in other circles, as well. It is a good thing to see Rube Goldberg featured in other media, such as film and television, which are more accessible. This will help more people to get to know who Rube Goldberg is and what he has brought to the table. The cartoonist-engineer was a man who deserved to be known by more people, even those who had not read any comic that he had ever produced. Continue to next page.