I am OBSESSED with McMillions. I loved it two years ago when it was a dramatic long read on The Daily Beast, and now that it is a documentary series I adore it even more. In case you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks, McMillions is an HBO docuseries about the McDonald’s Monopoly scandal, in which a security specialist stole almost all the winning game pieces from McDonald’s popular 1990s Monopoly giveaway game, which included prizes like Dodge Vipers and a one million dollar cash prize. The story on The Daily Beast is nuts, but seeing the people involved, especially FBI Special Agent Doug Mathews, takes McMillions to a whole new level. Reading the story is bonkers, but WATCHING it play out is like, well, let’s just say that I had the revelation that America is the Florida of the world while watching McMillions.
McMillions comes from, somewhat surprisingly, Mark Wahlberg’s production company. On a production level, it’s a really well done docuseries, edited brilliantly, piling up an unlikely cast of characters and a series of increasingly bizarre twists—the latest episode involved a determined local campaign to open a strip club in Hilton Head, South Carolina that eventually leads to one of the shady game-riggers to declare his business the “Church of the Fuzzy Bunny”, and that’s just ONE THING that happens, and it’s not even the craziest thing! McMillions is batsh-t insane. I don’t know why the FBI agreed to participate in this, they look COMPLETELY BONKERS. One thing is very clear: every agent who participated in the scam-busting sting, Operation Final Answer, obviously considers this the most fun case they’ve ever worked on.
What makes McMillions special is that it is essentially guilt-free true crime. If you, like me, consume a lot of true crime, you might sometimes be hit by the true crime guilt complex. Should we enjoy this? Should stories of other people’s misery be entertainment? Is “enjoy” even the right word, or is the compulsion to share stories about violence and murder part of a darker human impulse to understand our own chaotic natures? Well, with McMillions you don’t have to worry about any of that! Scamming the McDonald’s Monopoly game is about as victimless a crime as crime gets. Yes, if you drill down far enough you could say the swindle hurt those who threw their money away on game pieces with no real chance of winning the big prizes. (You could also say that no one should reasonably expect to win the lottery.) But it’s not like anyone lost their home to the McDonald’s Monopoly scam. Enjoy this true crime guilt free!
The other thing that makes McMillions special is Special Agent Doug Mathews. This guy rocks up in the first episode like a goddamn loose cannon—you KNOW at least one of his superiors has yelled, “You’re goddamn right it’s getting out of control!” at him. Agent Mathews is a fully formed movie character. He’s basically feeding lines to Jake Gyllenhaal’s inevitable performance in the movie (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck bought narrative rights to the The Daily Beast article. Maybe they can make this after their terrible mullet movie). Agent Mathews kicked off the Monopoly scam investigation because he was bored with health care fraud (“It’s important, but UGH!”). Agent Mathews wore a gold “French fry” suit to the FBI’s big meeting with McDonald’s because SOMEONE had to acknowledge that this case is a f-cking banger. Almost 20 years after this case went down, Agent Mathews is still delivering sick burns to his co-workers. Agent Mathews is basically like if Sterling Archer was real, and an FBI agent. The absolute best thing to happen this month is when someone told me that Agent Mathews had a nickname in his pre-FBI days, and that nickname was “Bazooka”. Bazooka! Has there ever been anyone more suited to the nickname “Bazooka” than Agent Doug Mathews? There can be none more Bazooka!
Between the guilt-free true crime story and Agent Doug Bazooka—GREAT fake name—McMillions is the best, most bonkers pleasure-viewing on television right now. After three episodes, it doesn’t seem like it can get any wilder, but we’ve just been teased with the possibility of a mob hit and we haven’t even gotten to the psychics yet. Every time I try to explain McMillions to someone, I end up sounding insane, because this story is insane. You literally can’t fathom Doug Bazooka until you see him for yourself, so watch McMillions and bask in the utter lunacy of this “only in America” true crime Hall of Famer.