Bumper Stumpers

(w/help from Frank Dudash)

Host: Al DuBois
Announcer: Ken Ryan
U.S. Broadcast History: USA Network, Jun. 29, 1987 - Dec. 28, 1990
Packagers: Global Television/Barry & Enright Productions/Wink Martindale Enterprises
Origination: Global TV, Don Mills, Ontario (Canada)
Opening Spiel:
(grahic of license plate is displayed on-screen) "This is the personalized license plate of a (insert description of person). If you can figure out that it says (solution), then you're ready to plaaaay...Bumper Stumpers!"

Premise: Two teams competed against each other in deciphering vanity-type license plates.


The game is played between two teams, each consisting of two friends, spouses, relatives, etc.

Each game begins with the two teams being shown the "Super Stumper", a vanity-type license plate w/seven unrevealed symbols which, when combined, sound out a series of words or phrase, along with a description of the kind of person that plate might "belong" to. The first symbol is given to the players for free, but they must earn the right to reveal the other six by playing a series of toss-up rounds known as "jump-ins".

Here's how each jump-in works: The teams are shown two plates and (as with the Super Stumper) asked which of the two belongs to a particular person (ex: "Which of these two plates belongs to Frankie Valli's backup singers, G8RAD or IVCCNN?) In this case, it would be the second one, which means "four seasons", with the Roman numeral four, a pair of Cs and a pair of Ns (the same two symbols together nearly always read as plurals; in this case, "Cs" and "Ns", not "C-C" or "N-N"). The first player to buzz in must determine which of the two plates it is, and if correct, his/her partner gets 10 seconds to decipher it (no help is allowed).
(NOTE: Early on, teams who made the correct "left or right" guess on a jump-in were given the choice of deciphering it themselves or challenging their opponents to do so; few teams elected to use the latter option, and it was quickly scrapped)
If the team who gets first crack at the jump-in can't solve it, their opponents get a chance to do so; if they fail, the correct solution is given, and another jump-in round is played.

In any event, whichever team solves the jump-in then gets a chance to guess the Super Stumper. One additional symbol of their choice is revealed, the clue is re-read, and they are given 5 seconds to decipher the plate. If successful, they win the first game of the match and $500; otherwise, another jump-in is played, and the game continues as above.
After all 7 symbols have been revealed, if the last team to win a jump-in is unable to solve the Super Stumper, the other team gets a chance to do so. If they fail, the correct solution is given and no one wins the round; originally, they would then replay the round (w/the value of the previous round being added to the next one), but this was later changed to a "sudden death" format, in which a new Super Stumper is played w/no jump-ins; the 2 teams alternate in revealing one symbol at a time (w/the team that won the last jump-in getting first pick) and attempting to guess, continuing in this manner until one team successfully solves it.

The first team to win 2 out of 3 games wins the match and goes on to play the bonus round.
(NOTE: Originally, it only took 1 game to win, and teams were allowed to remain on the show until they lost 2 games)

During the course of its run, "Bumper Stumpers" used three different bonus rounds, each of which will be described below:

Bonus Round #1 (1987-88) -
In the first part, the winning team is given 30 seconds to solve a series of 7 plates, each one w/a specific clue as to who it "belongs" to (a la the maingame "jump-ins"). If they successfully identify all 7 plates, they automatically win $1,000 (later upped to $2,000; read on) and the round is over. Otherwise, they move on to the 2nd part of the bonus round.
In the second part, the 7 gameboard monitors display the letters in the word "STUMPER", some concealing a money amount from $100 to $500, and the rest containing "stop" signs; the number of stop signs which appear on the board depends on how many plates the team failed to solve in part I (for example if the team failed to solve 2 plates, then 2 stop signs would be hidden on the board).
If the team hits a stop sign at anytime, the bonus round is immediately over (although, unlike most bonus rounds, they got to keep whatever money they earned along the way). If, however, they successfully collect $500 or more, whatever amount they have is automatically doubled.
(NOTE: After a short time, this bonus round was slightly modified [concurrent w/the switch to the "2-out-of-3 match" format] so that if the team accumulated $1,000 or more, it would be increased to $2,000, and a "win" card was added to the board, which automatically won the $2,000 if selected; also, hitting a stop sign cost the team all earnings in that bonus round)

Bonus Round #2 (1988-89) -
In the first part, the winning team has 30 seconds to solve 4 out of 5 plates shown to them; doing so is worth $200 (if they failed, the round was immediately over, and they won nothing).
If successful, the team is then given the opportunity to risk that money on their ability to solve one addtional plate; if they fail, the round is over, and they lose their initial $200. If, however, they solve it, their money is doubled to $400.
The team is then given the same option, and if they successfully solve the next plate, their money is doubled to $800. If successful at this point, they are offered one final chance to double their money, this time to $1,600, by solving one more plate.

Bonus Round #3 (1989-90) -
In the first part, one member of the team is sent into isolation; the other is given 30 seconds to solve a series of 5 plates; doing so is worth $100 for each one, all of which serve as clues leading to the identity of a person, place, or thing (a la "Password Plus").
In the second part, if the first player wishes to risk the money earned in the first part, the "Triple or Nothing" step comes into play, and his/her partner must guess the identity of the person, place, or thing that the 5 plates pertain to; if successful, whatever amount the team won in the first part is tripled (Ex: if they won $400 in the first part and successfully guessed the puzzle, 400 x 3 = 1200, so the team would win $1,200), otherwise, the money from the first step is lost.

Teams on "Bumper Stumpers" were allowed to remain on the show until they were defeated or won five consecutive matches (whichever came first).


Veteran emcee Wink Martindale (who created "Bumper Stumpers") and his wife Sandy are animal lovers and had two pet chihauhuas, "Bumper" and "Stumper", obviously named after the show.

As revealed by Martindale in the 2020 documentary series "The Search for Canada's Game Shows", his working title for the concept was "License to Steal", but Martindale's good friend and supervising producer Mark Maxwell-Smith (who also had a hand in development) came up w/the eventual series title, which even Martindale himself admitted was "perfect".

The final 2 first-run weeks of the series in September 1990 (which would also be repeated as the final two aired weeks in late December of that year) consisted of a Tournament of Champions, w/16 previously undefeated teams returning to compete. A grand prize of $10,000 was paid to the winners, while $5,000 was awarded to the runner-up team.

Following his stint on BS, host Al DuBois later turned up in his native Canada as an on-air personality for The Weather Network during the mid-90s and later served in the same capacity (as well as sports reporter) for "This Morning Live" on CKMI in Montreal.

After a 9 1/2-year hiatus, reruns of BS turned up on Game Show Network for a couple of months in mid-2000, as a brief replacement for their original series "Inquizition" (although it had made one-shot appearances on GSN a couple of times prior to that). Reruns were later shown on Canadian-based GameTV, which aired it from 2012 to 2017, followed by two brief stints in early 2018 and 2019.