Bumper Stumpers

USA (ended 1990)


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Bumper Stumpers

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There is always something about a personalized license plate that brings a smile to everyone's face. Indeed, the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has made something of a career of it. But ask any Virginian what inspired him to get that quirky plate, and chances are he will not mention Bumper Stumpers, the most successful of original game shows ever aired on USA Network. Bob Stewart had set up outfits in Toronto and Montréal during the mid-1980s, reviving Jackpot in Toronto and Chain Reaction in Montréal. Coming out of that background, the heirs to the Jack Barry game show estate teamed with Wink Martindale Enterprises to create Bumper Stumpers for Global Television (Eastern Canada) and USA Network (United States). Here was its simple premise: Al Dubois, billed as "the driving force" on the show, gave two pairs of contestants word puzzles in the form of quirky license plates. First up on the bank of seven computer monitors: two different license plates. Al Dubois read a clue: "Which of these license plates belongs to…?" The contestants had to buzz in when they thought they knew, and said either "left" or "right." Whoever won that skirmish got control of the correct license plate and then had five seconds to decipher it. (e.g., The pictured license plate belongs to an overweight ballerina.) If neither team got the right answer (with the team in control missing out first, then the other team), the round started over with two different plates. Getting the correct answer within five seconds gave the lucky team a chance to solve the main license plate. The main puzzler was a seven-space license plate, à la old school California, with white characters, à la Michigan. Only the team that had won the round could get a shot at this main puzzler. With the first letter of the plate given to them, they would ask for a different space to be filled. Given that character, the contestants had ten seconds to solve the puzzler. Early in its first season, one correctly-solved main puzzler took the lucky team directly to the endgame. There they tried to guess as many as seven license plates within 60 seconds. The more they solved, the better their chances were at that diabolical bank of computer monitors. Each of the seven screens changed to a letter: S, T, U, M, P, E, R. Behind them? However many license plates the contestants failed to solve, that was the number of STOP signs lurking behind the seven screens. The other screens hid dollar amounts: $500, $400, $300, $200, $100, and another $500. However many license plates the team correctly solved, was reflected in the end game, starting with the $500 space and going down the line as you just read. Players chose letters and (hopefully) amassed money until (A) they collected $500 to win the endgame, or (B) they hit a STOP sign and ended play, keeping any accumulated winnings. (That rule would change shortly.) Rather the reverse of the Tic Tac Dough endgame, since there could be as many of six dragons (oops-I meant STOP signs) and only one good place on the board. Within two months of the first year, the structure of front game to endgame was changed. Before, teams could stay until they lost two front games to the same opponents. In the revised format, two main puzzlers made up the front game. Values of dollar amounts in the endgame were changed. This time, depending on how many license plates were guessed correctly, the non-STOP signs began with a WIN symbol, then these dollar amounts: $500, $400, $300, $200, $100. The champions' goal was to get the WIN sign and collect $1,000 or (if they guessed four to six plates correctly) select enough dollar amounts to reach $1,000. Any time they hit a STOP sign, the champions would lose any accumulated money in the endgame. (That put it more in-line with the Barry & Enright tradition.) Teams could win a maximum of five front games. Among all those who competed on Bumper Stumpers, no one won more money than Mo and Jeff, five-time champions from the first season. Bumper Stumpers was a registered trademark of Barry & Enright Productions and Wink Martindale Enterprises.moreless