It's a good idea to consider a few questions when ordering a burger. Nothing too wild. Simple stuff like: does this burger have cheese? (It should.) Other rubbers? (Knock yourself out.) How about fries on the side? (Everything that is worth doing is worth doing right.) And then the most important question: is this burger involved in a massive, long-term fraud program? As HBO's McMillions would like to remind us, there was a big criminal conspiracy aimed at depriving you of the chance to get rich if you got a McDonald's burger in the 90s hoping to win the chain's annual Monopoly game.
The documentary mini-series, which aired four of six episodes, brings viewers back to the heyday of McDonald's most successful promotion, which encouraged customers across the country to buy fast food to get more monopoly tokens. The prices for collecting these pieces ranged from trivial (french fries) to massive ($ 1 million). And for twelve years, the game was completely manipulated by a slowly growing group of criminals who figured out how to crack the system.
McMillions dedicates his hour-long episodes of the slow evolution of this crime during his more than ten-year reign, from the FBI agents who started chasing a tip that they almost instantly rejected to the staff of the suspects who they identify traction as case gains. It's a great story in itself that brought national news in summer 2018. However, the first few minutes of McMillions make you wonder if it's oversold – there are some really cheesy re-enactments, and the show's initial focus. It feels awfully tight, as if there isn't much left to keep your attention for another five hours hold.
But there is much more, and the reasons to keep looking are quickly piling up. First, there is Agent Doug Matthews, the earliest source. Matthews was an FBI junior agent at the start of the Monopoly scam program investigation and was such a good TV character that it's hard to believe that he really is a real person. Matthews talks talkative and vain with a gentle expression and heavy bravery. He likes to talk about his early days and helps to construct a sophisticated and ruthless stitch to get the fraudsters out. He is almost too eager to essentially promote the government to the point where it feels strange, at a point where it is not clear what the real crime is. Then the overall picture becomes sharp and the cast of characters expands.
McMillions is quickly becoming a cyclone tour of an unlikely underworld full of would-be gangsters, real estate impresarios from the south, and friendly drug dealers who look like Jerry from Parks and Recreation. As with many of the most satisfying puzzles, the who of this story is recognizable early on, and the how and why lets you observe.
Most of the time it is extremely satisfying to get lost in a true crime story that is not about cruel murder or the grifting of everyday people – the biggest victims here are almost always McDonald’s and the people who act as Monopoly fraud programs becoming greedy grows.
The biggest discomfort at McMillions is not necessarily related to this fraud program, but to the idea of McDonald’s. At the beginning of the show, it is described that the company is ready to work with the FBI because of its brand image. A speaking head notes that if McDonalds cannot be trusted thanks to some fraudsters, it would do irreparable damage to the brand. It's a page that kept coming to my mind as the footage from the news reports of the past decade or so has been played throughout the miniseries. This video showed all kinds of everyday people flocking to their local franchise for dinner.
It's remarkable how common they are compared to the louder characters McMillions follows. They are a humble group of people who are likely to do what they need to do to get through an already stressful day. They remind me of the times when I ate McDonald & # 39; s as a child, one of too many mouths to feed on not enough money, and then again as an adult, thinly stretched and aware that it was mine was sold that paid too little, stretched as thin as I was, for the sake of suits that frankly didn't care. However, it would be a shame if something happened to this brand image.