<strike id="j19n3"><dl id="j19n3"></dl></strike>
<span id="j19n3"><dl id="j19n3"></dl></span><span id="j19n3"><video id="j19n3"></video></span><span id="j19n3"><video id="j19n3"><ruby id="j19n3"></ruby></video></span>
<strike id="j19n3"><video id="j19n3"><ruby id="j19n3"></ruby></video></strike><th id="j19n3"><video id="j19n3"><strike id="j19n3"></strike></video></th>
<th id="j19n3"><video id="j19n3"><span id="j19n3"></span></video></th>
<strike id="j19n3"></strike>
<span id="j19n3"><dl id="j19n3"></dl></span>
<span id="j19n3"><video id="j19n3"><ruby id="j19n3"></ruby></video></span><span id="j19n3"><dl id="j19n3"><del id="j19n3"></del></dl></span>
<strike id="j19n3"></strike>
<ruby id="j19n3"></ruby>
<span id="j19n3"><video id="j19n3"><strike id="j19n3"></strike></video></span>

‘McMillions’: TV Review

60 MIN.

The tale of the McDonald’s Monopoly-game heist was one hell of a story. Indeed, it seems to have been too much story for “McMillions,” a documentary series premiering at Sundance ahead of a bow on HBO, to tell — even with the benefit of six episodes.

The story we’re told here is less about what happened — a scam involving accumulating all the most powerful stickers in the fast-food chain’s annual sweepstakes, as reported in a Daily Beast piece designed to lend itself to a screen adaptation — than how it did, with a cast of characters who are made to seem likelier to have emerged from the pens of Joel and Ethan Coen than from life. But the film seems uncertain how to handle the bounty of both incident and of peculiar humanity that flows out of its story. The pacing, for instance, forces the viewer to hurry up and wait. We’re told very early in the first episode that a Jacksonville field office of the FBI had been tipped off to inconsistencies in the contest, rushed into their investigation, and then mired in chaos and confusion that doesn’t build so much as settles in. 

The filmmakers, James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte, are so enamored of the characters who crop up in the story that they allow them to veer onto narrative tangents, to chat loosely and lightly in a manner that is, if you squint, revealing of character or of some larger theme about American ingenuity and the tradition of scamming. But that’s giving “McMillions” quite a bit of credit, credit that it earns through the good fortune of having interesting subjects and not through craft. Indeed, the film leans hard on artless devices, including a predilection for re-enactment that feels like something out of “America’s Most Wanted.”

Another generous reading of the series is that it fits neatly into a new mini-genre of documentary — the true-crime-adjacent story that derives its power more from the craziness of its subject matter than from control of tone or artistic skill. (In this, it’d join recent films including “Three Identical Strangers” and “Fyre,” movies that were stylistically undistinguished but that could at least be said to be telling fascinating stories.) That’s preferable to another possibility: That the filmmakers here are making purposefully tacky and unappealing choices in order to convey their ideas of their subjects. This reading suggests itself early on, when an FBI agent recalls wearing a metallic-gold suit to work the case, which he sees in retrospect was a silly choice: The re-enactment, of a clownish-looking strut, does not strike the viewer as lovingly deflating. The glum kitchen of a million-dollar winner (a beneficiary of the ruse and, later, a victim of sorts) is devoured by a camera that seems interested for reasons that extend beyond curiosity or humanity. Later, a woman close to the center of the scam action comes in for somewhat cruel depiction, with the camera sitting on an image of her lipstick-smeared cigarette in an ashtray as if to convey that, for reasons over and above her words and deeds, this woman is not to be trusted. Forget her complicity in crimes; to “McMillions,” she’s committed aesthetic sins. 

These devices seem like a way to air-traffic-control the many elements of this story that need to remain in the air: By settling on a particular style, at least, the filmmakers give themselves the benefit of momentum. There’s a tone — of snideness and of contempt — that can be defaulted to as the story moves along. (The story is unbelievable. But being elbowed in the ribs constantly and asked “Do you believe these people?” is where the series pushes its luck.) The people in “McMillions” are not only characters in a crime caper. They’re people, and I’d posit that they deserved more serious consideration.

'McMillions': TV Review

HBO. Six episodes (three screened for review).

Production: Executive Producers: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Archie Gips

More TV

  • Sofia Vergara arrives at the 32nd

    PaleyFest LA 2020 Postponed As Coronavirus Concerns Grow

    The Paley Center has opted to postpone its signature annual PaleyFest LA event, which was scheduled to kick off this Friday with a tribute to retiring sitcom “Modern Family.” “For several weeks now, the Paley Center, along with our venue host, The Dolby Theatre, has monitored the situation closely, staying in daily contact with local, [...]

  • Riverdale

    'Riverdale' Suspended After Production Member Was in Contact With Coronavirus Patient

    Production of “Riverdale” has been suspended after a member of the production came into contact with someone who recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, according to Warner Bros. Television. It is not clear whether that person is part of the cast or the crew. “We have been made aware that [...]

  • ABC Comedy Pilot Inspired by Kelly

    ABC Comedy Pilot Inspired by Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest Sets Cast

    ABC’s single-cam comedy “Work Wife,” which is inspired by inspired by the partnership between Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, has set its cast. Ripa, who was already on board as an executive producer, has been cast alongside Angelique Cabral, Tone Bell, Christopher Gorham, Annapurna Sriram, Matt Shively and Maile Flanagan. The prospective series tells the story of [...]

  • TV Roundup: Adult Swim Drops 'Three

    TV News Roundup: Adult Swim Releases 'Three Busy Debras' Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Variety obtained an exclusive first look at Adult Swim’s “Three Busy Debras,” and actor Juan Alfonso will star in Disney Channel series “Ultra/Violent Blue Demon.”  CASTING Juan Alfonso will play the role of Sebastian Rodriquez on the upcoming pilot for Disney Channel original series “Ultra Violet & Blue Demon,” Variety [...]

  • Stanley NelsonPBS 'Boss: The Black Experience

    Listen: Filmmaker Stanley Nelson on Nurturing the Next Generation of Documentary Stars

    Ask Stanley Nelson about the key to his longevity as a documentary filmmaker and he doesn’t hesitate with his response: “Luck.” Nelson is the director-producer behind such recent films as “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” which premiered at Sundance last year and is now part of PBS’ “American Masters” series, 2015’s “The Black Panthers: [...]

  • Emmy DVD Screeners

    TV Academy's Emmy Screener Ban Is Here to Help the Planet, but Not Necessarily the Wallet

    The Television Academy’s decision to ban DVD mailers from the Emmy Awards campaign initially earned widespread raves from networks and studios. But then came the fine print. Because of new fees attached to their online Emmy screeners, several major outlets have expressed frustration that they’re not saving money like that thought they would once the [...]


    AT&T's Xandr Ad-Tech Unit Struck a Big New Deal. Then Its CEO Resigned

    Brian Lesser had every reason to be proud of Xandr, the ad-tech company he led. On Wednesday, it unveiled a new deal to do work with Walt Disney, WarnerMedia and AMC Networks. He celebrated in an odd way: He quit. Lesser, a well-regarded advertising executive, had expanded his profile after coming aboard in the summer [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content