McMillion$ is an HBO docuseries (minseries + documentary) detailing the scam surrounding various McDonald’s games, available for streaming on HBO Max, all six episodes, rated and reviewed in this post.
“Episode 1” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Air date: February 3, 2020
The FBI receives a tip that the top winners in McDonald’s games are rigged, with the winners going to relatives. A newer agent goes undercover with a fake camera crew to expose the identity of “Uncle Jerry”
This is a compelling opening episode that tells a story based on various interviews. Viewers don’t know who is behind the con game, but it becomes increasingly apparent that the games are being rigged somehow.
We are led to the security firm, Simon Marketing, that prints the game pieces.
“Episode 2” ⭐️⭐️⭐️
February 10, 2020
Following the trail of the head of security at the Simon Marketing, Jerry Jacobson and his web of connections. At first we are led to believe “Uncle Jerry” is Jerry Jacobson, but we’re also introduced to a crime family leader named Jerry Columbo. It turns out Columbo would buy the winning tickets from Jacobson and then distribute them to winners for a cut.
At the end of the episode we learn the identity of “Uncle Jerry.”
This episode didn’t have as much punch as the first, but was still interesting and entertaining.
“Episode 3” ⭐️⭐️
February 17, 2020
Digs into the world of Jerry Columbo, courtesy of his brother being interviewed. Columbo was one of Jerry Jacobson’s connections that helped find winners for the big tickets. Columbo was involved with various unsavory criminal entities.
This episode seemed to get a little too far away from the McDonald’s game ticket scam and more into Columbo’s family and other people he associated with (there were multiple people, as we learn in the next episode), but it was a little dry and didn’t seem nearly as focused or important as the first two episodes.
“Episode 4” ⭐️
February 24, 2020
Jerry Columbo is involved in a car accident and dies. His house is looted, including some McDonald’s big ticket winners, but we don’t ever find out if those tickets were claimed as part of it … which leaves the viewer wondering what the purpose of telling this part of the story was.
We’re then introduced to AJ, an ex-con who is involved in distributing the winning tickets after Jerry Columbo passed away.
Another episode that was too padded. We could have gotten the pertinent information to the scam in episode 3 and 4 in 10 minutes instead of two hours. Too much padding, losing interest fast, get back to the game scam, please!
“Episode 5” ⭐️⭐️⭐️
March 2, 2020
Jerry Jacobson’s son is profiled at the beginning as going against his father’s wishes to involve himself with the film, but then he disappears into the background (until the episode ending) and the focus becomes the FBI taking down and arresting all the people involved in the conspiracy to defraud McDonald’s game.
This episode brings back the interest level that was fading into too much semi-related information about the people involved. Now, it’s time to arrest the people, and all of them are arrested without conflict.
“Episode 6” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
March 9. 2020
Trial for the accused. We also learn how Jerry Jacobson pulled off the scheme of obtaining the winning tickets from a locked briefcase handcuffed to his arm and requiring multiple combinations. It’s not as ingenious a flaw in the security procedure as you might expect, but you can watch and learn.
Typically, white collar crimes don’t carry heavy sentences. The victims of this $20 million McDonald’s game scam are all the customers of McDonald’s who thought they were playing a legitimate game for 10+ years and the employees of the printing company that lost their jobs because of the lost business.
In the closing credits, we learn that McDonald’s gave away $25 million to randomly selected customers. While I haven’t paid that much attention, I think these games are still happening in McDonald’s, obviously now with even more heightened security in place. Same lousy odds of winning, however.
Ultimately, this is a story of one man’s scam impacting many other people and the FBI investigation that exposed the crime. A bit on the depressing side, but then it reminded me why I never got into the McDonald’s Monopoly game anyway. Not because I suspected there was this high level scam in place, but because I knew the odds of winning the big prizes were ridiculously low. I don’t play the state lotteries very often either. We do the scratch cards once in awhile and yes we do gamble in casinos. Much better odds on any game being played inside there.
Still, we realize gambling is a loser’s game. You are statistically and predictably going to lose. Slot machines are regulated to payback a percentage above 90% in most casinos and even if you did that on every machine, every time — which you wouldn’t — you’d systematically lose 10 cents or so on each dollar. Who does that? The answer is people do it for the entertainment value and the chance at the really, really big jackpot. Yeah, those odds are terrible, too, but there are worse things one can spend his/her entertainment money on.
Did/do you play these McDonald’s games?
This started out strong, but never really has the steam through the other five episodes as of the first. It ends wrapping up many of the loose ends, but not all of them. They just took way too long to tell this story. It should have been a two-parter. Heck, this could make an entertaining movie. There isn’t enough meat on the bones for a six-part, six hour docuseries.
Overall series rating: ⭐️⭐️½