The Real Housewives are considered TV junk food, and documentaries are a plate of dull but nutritious veggies. Not in the case of McMillions, the HBO docuseries looking at McDonald’s popular Monopoly game promotion. With prizes of cars, and instant millions, people were snatching up game pieces, fruitlessly looking for Boardwalk or other big winners.
I say fruitlessly because they never had a chance.
The scam went down throughout the 1990s and was busted nearly 20 years ago. I remember covering the arrests, and a few years later, reading a great article detailing how it all played out.
But even though it’s been a generation and I already know everything about it, McMillions still captivates me. Somehow, producers get the FBI agents to talk about getting tipped off, putting together the sting, even how they leaked their investigation to the press on the eve of arrests.
These are not boring agents. They are charismatic (I’m looking at you, Special Agent Mathews), candid, and compelling.
Go Directly To Jail
And if that’s not enough, we also hear directly from most of the people who scammed the game. It involves mobsters, clandestine meetings, and frozen tickets hidden in freezers. As I’m listening to these people I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Yes, most have served their sentences and their stories are already on the public record. But it’s still fascinating.
Like the elusive Boardwalk game piece, we still don’t know how the cons got their hands on the tickets or who called in the tip.
Tonight’s finalé (10:10pm ET on HBO) suggests those questions will be answered.
This is definitely a doc worth checking out, just for the cast of characters. And even if I never won anything more than a medium fry back-in-the-day, I wish they’d bring Monopoly back. Of course, the most ironic space on the board is Chance. Because we never had one.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
On our way to tailgate at Ball State football games, we’d stop at McDonalds and I’d get a super-sized Diet Coke, then add in a splash of Ronrico Rum. Trust me, BSU football in the early 90s would drive you to drink.
So I’m going old-skool with a rum and coke in a flimsy paper cup. Free medium fries not included.