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Netflix Show About Rich Dog Proves That Facts Are Pointless. Let Chaos Reign

By Alison Lanier | TV | February 10, 2023 |

By Alison Lanier | TV | February 10, 2023 |


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Gunther’s Millions, the Netflix docuseries chronicling the saga of Gunther, the richest dog in the world, does indeed have “docu-” in the category description. And yet, most of the show spends its time outlining all the myriad lies that have for so many years defined story. That isn’t unintentional. Call 2023 thus far the year of the unreliable true crime narrator, what with Paul T. Goodman and Gunther’s Millions competing for the strangest fictionalized narratives sold as fact.

To be fair to both shows, both Goodman and Gunther (the shows, not the man or the dog) have a self-awareness that the journey they’re embarking on is a twisted and misleading one, and that’s made explicit within each series. The twists and turns of Gunther’s Millions lie in tracing how deep the lies run and how equally absurd the buried truths are.

At the heart of the documentary is Maurizio Mian, an Italian doctor and the human handler of Gunther, a German Shepherd (well, really a dynasty of German Shepherds) who inherited a massive fortune from a German countess. Gunther (the original) was the beloved dog of the countess’s son, who died by suicide at 26. Maurizio’s mother was close friends with the countess, and Maurizio with her son. When it came time to put the dog in good hands, Maurizio was a natural choice.

Maurizio leads a wildly privileged life in the ecosystem of employees retained by … Gunther. Gunther’s PR representative and spokesmen both seem delighted and amused by having a dog for a boss. Obviously, the dog has no idea how much his Miami mansion cost (his human agents bought it from, get this, Madonna), or how big his private yacht is, or if he owns a jet or not. But his human employees do—especially Maurizio and his lawyer.

Gunther also has no idea that Maurizio is recruiting beautiful (almost exclusively white) people to live in said Miami mansion, ostensibly to be part of a generic early-aughts pop group—but actually to be subjects in a constantly-surveilled “experiment” on how to create perfectly happy people, which verges on the very icky. Maurizio strives to turn this luxury household into a non-traditional family, with sexual freedom, no monogamous jealousy, and perfect contentment (based of course on a scale invented by Maurizio himself).

How much of what you’ve just read is true? Incredibly, just about everything in the last paragraph. Other than that, take your guess.

This is a story about the ultra-wealthy making public narratives out of their lives, leaning into the fiction for reasons subtle, abstract, absurd, and tragic. It’s also about casual, massive tax crimes being spun into pop culture fantasies.

It’s hard to know if we can comfortably condemn or comfortably celebrate anybody involved in all of this. The show balances on many points of ambiguity. There is, yes, a case of animal abuse involved (neglect, from which there is a rescue with a happy ending), but even that is a tangled web of blame, complicity, good intentions, and massive unanswered questions.

The show also interviews an Italian celebrity under house arrest who appears to be on something during his interview, or else is just wildly unwell. (I’m specifically not using said interviewee’s name here because dear god this man does not need the attention. He somehow manages to come off as more grimy than the actual animal abusers in the show.)

This is a very weird one and a very wild ride. The dogs are very cute. The wealth is obscene. The early-aughts aesthetics are powerful. Buckle up, and enjoy.