McMillion$ (HBO)


Too much good stuff
Jul 2, 2003
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Is everything
I'm three episodes into this fascinating story. Lovin' it.

If you haven't tried HBO's Mark Wahlberg-produced true crime documentary "McMillions," then Monday's episode is prime time to catch up. Not only is it Presidents' Day – the day when we honor the capitalism and freedom fries that our forefathers died for – but it also marks the halfway point in the six-episode series. It is essentially the juiciest, most satisfying portion between the two all-beef patties of the Big Mac that is "McMillions."

But for the uninitiated, it all begins with a young Jacksonville-based FBI agent who is on the hunt for a case that will move the "funmeter," something beyond his bureau's typical probes into healthcare and medical fraud. That's when Doug Matthews sees a forgotten Post-it note, stuck to a senior agent's desktop — "McDonald's Monopoly Fraud?" scrawled on it with marker —and runs with it.

This leads to a multiyear investigation that uncovered millions of dollars of theft from the McDonald's Monopoly game that was supposed to be a fun sales promotion awarding prizes ranging from free food to cars and cash (and also explains why most people who played the game never won anything more valuable than a large soda). Like some of the best true crime series in recent years, "McMillions" goes beyond headlines that, for many, were simply a blip on the radar, revealing an almost unbelievable story of deceit and collusion, propelled by both ordinary people and organized crime.

In the first three episodes, Matthews is quickly established as our main character. After he calls the number associated with the tip on that Post-it, he finds out that three of the recent $1 million winners of the McDonald's Monopoly promotions are related.

Questions immediately emerge: Is McDonald's in on this scam, or are they the ones being defrauded? Who actually has ready access to the $1 million game pieces? And most compellingly — who in the world is "Uncle Jerry," a name that comes up in Matthews' research into the winning contestants?