Cap'n Spanky's Showboat is the first segment of the ninth episode of The Little Rascals animated series, during the first season, as part of The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show. It first aired 20 November 1982 on ABC, and was rebroadcast 26 November 1983 as part of the twelfth episode of The Monchhichis/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show.
The gang are looking forward to taking a ride on the Mississippi Queen. When the gang arrive, they are stopped by a fence. On the other side of the fence, Darla says the riverboat looks to be abandoned. Then they learn that Captain Smokey, the ship's former captain, had quit his job because business had fallen a few years back. The gang has decided to fix up the riverboat in order to encourage Captain Smokey to consider going back into business.
After a successful cleanup (despite several mishaps by Alfalfa), Smokey was amazed at how much the riverboat has improved. Spanky then ordered an inspection while he was about to search for some passengers. Spanky then served as a barker, inviting the tourists to step right up, mentioning "top-grade entertainment", pointing his stick to a sign that displayed Alfalfa and Darla as the entertainers (which could imply that Alfalfa was to perform his famous off-key singing, and Darla was to perform a song and dance act). But, more trouble awaits when Smokey discovers that the engine had failed, and Captain Smokey had no faith for his ship nor his job anymore.
Then, the boys decided to throw in the towel, but Darla told them all he needs is an engine, and believes there is still a chance to get the riverboat working again. Buckwheat and Porky were now searching for a new engine, and then discovered an abandoned boat down the river. They decided to row toward it, but a fast-moving current took them off course and heading toward a waterfall. The rest of the gang heard Buckwheat and Porky yelling for help. Spanky realized that Captain Smokey was the only person to help in saving Buckwheat and Porky from danger. Captain Smokey decided at the last second to give the riverboat what would be its final run.
After successfully rescuing Buckwheat and Porky, Smokey declared that the riverboat has had its last voyage, and is now "a useless piece of scrap." Spanky then realized there is an alternate use for it: Later on, at night, the riverboat was transformed into a restaurant, and with a red carpet laid out, Smokey was welcoming guests aboard. Buckwheat and Smokey commended Spanky on his alternate idea, and Smokey thanked the kids for not giving up on him, and as the segment closes, Pete celebrates by blowing a hand whistle while wearing a captain's hat.
One infamous moment from this episode featured Darla briefly seen barefoot, despite wearing her dress, after she and Buckwheat had just finished cleaning the deck with brushes strapped to Darla's bare feet and sponges tied to Buckwheat's bare feet, and using them like skates. This is the only episode in the series with regular characters seen barefoot and wearing their usual attire otherwise.
Darla was seen barefoot in only one other animated episode, "The Irate Pirates", which was set on a beach and she was seen in a bikini. It is believed that her bare feet were never revealed in any of her 50 Our Gang theatrical shorts, though in some circulating images, she appeared to wear sandals, so her bare feet may have been revealed in some images yet to be posted.
Other rare examples of fully-clothed barefoot characters can be viewed in the Oddities page.
- A similar plot was previously used in The New Scooby-Doo Movies episode "The Haunted Showboat" - only with ghosts involved.
- The voice of Captain Smokey may sound reminiscent of Mr. Hollywood on the 1993 series, 2 Stupid Dogs. Smokey may have been voiced by Brian Cummings, He would announce on a number of Hanna-Barbera cartoons as well as serve as the announcer on the game show The All-New Let's Make a Deal during its first season.
- The Rascals were doing tasks, many of which require adult supervision. Darla's and Buckwheat's deck cleaning task may cause injury, such as dislocated kneecaps, if attempted in real life.
- This is the only known episode in the series that featured animated transitions between scenes, a practice which was phased out of new Hanna-Barbera series by 1981 in favor of a fading transition.
- This episode, along with "Pete's Big Break", were the only two known episodes where no villains prevailed. Both those episodes aired back-to-back during Season 2, during the latter two weeks of November 1983.
- Because of the abundance of adults waiting in line to ride the refurbished riverboat, this episode may have the most adults prevalent than any other episode (an average eleven-minute episode has at least one adult character with a voice role).
- The name of the story's writer was not revealed, most likely because of the length of the title and the larger font size in the title card.
- The Mississippi Queen was also the name of a real life steamboat. The one in this episode was claimed to be in disrepair when it first aired in 1982. The real life steamboat was first launched in 1976, and is now out of service. It is uncertain whether this episode's setting was inspired by the real life steamboat, or the 1970 song by the classic rock band Mountain, or both.
- This episode being set on a riverboat and its title bearing Spanky's name may be a callback to the 1936 feature-length Our Gang film General Spanky.
- The homemade car was not driven by Pete. Pete was seated in the back with Buckwheat and Porky. It is unknown what propels the car in this case.
- When the handbrake to the homemade car was detached, the boys use their feet as their "emergency brake". This may be a shoutout to the Our Gang theatrical short "Hi'-Neighbor!"
- The Rascals were apparently trespassing on derelict property, since a fence barred off the dock. They would also do the same in "Rascals' Revenge"
- While Spanky and Alfalfa were fixing the boat's whistle, Alfalfa, on top of the roof, was attacked by a live spider and looked cross-eyed. This scene was featured in the Our Gang theatrical short "Night 'n' Gales".
- The floor-cleaning scene with Darla wearing brushes on her feet and using them like skates would be recycled in the 1997 Pippi Longstocking movie, and in the intro to the 2002 version of The Berenstain Bears, both of which were non–Hanna-Barbera properties. It could be assumed that this stunt would have been used on The Flintstones.
- In one scene, Darla (seen barefoot) scolded Alfalfa, telling him "You threw dirt out all over my nice clean deck!" Darla doesn't own the deck, Captain Smokey does.
- When Spanky discovered smoke developing from the ship, he ran to the tub of water that Darla and Buckwheat used for their floor cleaning task and fetched a fire pail on the wall. When the same tub of water was last seen (when Darla was barefoot), the fire pail was not seen.
- When Spanky tried to get some water to put out a small fire, the fire pail had a hole on the bottom. This stunt may have been later used in the 1994 film adaptation The Little Rascals
- When Captain Smokey and the Rascals were trying to rescue Buckwheat and Porky, the steamboat moved closer to the edge of the waterfall. This was one of three episodes in the series that at least one of the Rascals put their lives at risk to save someone's life. Such rescue may have made this episode the highest-rated 11-minute cartoon of the entire series, and it may have been a "jump the shark" moment.
- This episode was later rebroadcast on November 26, 1983 (Thanksgiving weekend), during the second season of the series. It was the only episode to be aired on two holiday weekends during the second season (the other such rebroadcast was on May 26, 1984, which was Memorial Day weekend).
- In August 1984, this episode was tied with "Porky-O and Julie-Et" for having aired the most times, with eight times each.
- This episode is not to be confused with the Our Gang theatrical short "Captain Spanky's Showboat".
- After Darla blows the ship's whistle, her shoes and socks had flickered colors. She was then seen wearing white socks with pink shoes, the inverse of her usual color scheme.