Rewatching DuckTales! We’ve got ‘80s excess with the rich versus the poor in episode 22, “Down and Out in Duckburg.”
Here’s what happens: Scrooge is going to be profiled on his favorite TV show, Lifestyles of the Filthy Rich. But then, a jerk named Fritter Away bursts through the door, announcing that he’s the rightful owner of Scrooge’s fortune, because of a deal his ancestor made with Scrooge’s ancestor Seafoam McDuck.
Fritter takes ownership of Scrooge’s entire fortune. He allows Scrooge and the others to continue living in the mansion as long as they work for him. He sets out extravagantly redecorating the mansion. When Scrooge objects, Fritter throws him out, along the nephews, Mrs. Beakeley, and Webby.
There’s a lot of “Scrooge is penniless” gags now, with everyone ending up living under a bridge just in time for the Lifestyles of the Filthy Rich show to do the story. Humiliated, Scrooge and the nephews hatch a plan. If they find Fritter’s ancestor’s long-lost treasure and properly deliver it, he’ll fulfill the terms of the contract and get his fortune back.
Then the episode becomes a deep-sea diving treasure hunt, as Scrooge explores a shipwreck graveyard on the ocean floor while being menaced by sharks. Mrs. Beakeley (of all people) rescues Scrooge, and they recover the treasure. Fritter tries to stop Scrooge from returning, but falls into the ocean. Scrooge saves his life, but only after Fritter signs the papers that complete the contract and returns Scrooge’s money.
Humbug: The episode establishes that Scrooge first got rich thanks to finding gold in the Klondike. He used Seafoam McDuck’s fortune to pay for that Klondike expedition.
Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie announce, “We quit!” when walking out on Fritter. What is their job, exactly?
Maid and maiden: In addition to her many other skills, Mrs. Beakeley is also a former swim champion. This somehow gives her the physical strength to dive to the bottom of the ocean without a diving suit or any breathing equipment.
Fowl fouls: Fritter Away is really obnoxious, his evil plan is just to use Scrooge’s money to paint everything orange for some reason. I guess because this episode is about Scrooge learning not to be a jerk, then Fritter has to be an even bigger jerk.
Down in Duckburg: We meet a clothing store owner named Mr. O’Flannel, who pays rent to Scrooge. Also there’s Captain Jack (not Sparrow) who owns a fishing boat. He does business with Scrooge. Scrooge initially won’t pay for the boat’s repairs, but he does by the end.
Reference row: The show-within-the-show is obviously a parody of the famously trashy ‘80s series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, hosted by Robin Leach.
The episode title and some of its themes are based on the bizarre 1986 comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which itself was a remake of the classic Jean Renoir 1932 film Boudu Saved from Drowning.
Thoughts upon this viewing: Again let me reiterate that my hypothesis about how the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning his family and friends are more important than his money. This episode digs deep on that by having Scrooge being a rich a-hole at the start of the episode, and then being (somewhat) altruistic at the end. Also, he fights sharks.
Next: Cry no more, duck ladies.
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