A cat reviews Netflix’s new docuseries about the world’s richest dog

A dog seated at a dining table is served by a chef.
A scene from the Netflix docuseries “Gunther’s Millions.”

[Editor’s note: This review was written by Times TV critic Robert Lloyd’s cat, Visity Kitty.]

I don’t watch a lot of television, ordinarily being busy with sleeping, eating, chasing things that aren’t there and trying to teach the people around here how to speak my language. (What about “meow” do you not understand?) But occasionally something catches my eye while the person who lives with me is watching things for work. And I happened to be awake, and not eating or chasing anything, when “Gunther’s Millions” (Netflix, premiering Wednesday), a docuseries about the world’s richest dog, came on.

First of all, why is it always a dog? Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Beethoven, Bluey. Pop culture loves a pooch but is unkind to cats — we’re supposed to be unlucky, we get cast as troublemakers if not outright villains. I don’t want to say dogs are stupid, but I think we can agree they’re pretty needy, and all that it takes is a squirrel running along a power line to make one lose its mind. Just the word “squirrel” can set them off. And they’re pretty helpless if left to their own devices. A cat can do all right in the wild if she has to.

Anyway, “Gunther’s Millions.” What is that term — hate-watching? Not that I hated the show, whose four hours I watched with growing astonishment straight through. I just don’t like dogs. Fortunately, it isn’t just, or even mostly, about a dog. I’ve overheard enough podcasts in my nine lives to know that the story you think you’re going to be told is never the story you wind up hearing, and that the people who put together these sorts of docuseries keep you on the hook by making each new revelation crazier than the last. I’ve also picked up something about spoilers, just keeping my very acute ears open, so I’m not going to tell you much beyond where “Gunther” begins. And fair enough — I mean, who wants to learn ahead of time that the mouse you’re attacking is just a bag of catnip? Wait until it’s in pieces all over the carpet, I say. “I didn’t see that coming!” Much more fun.


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So I will just say that once upon a time — it seems the right way to begin — there was a wealthy German countess named Karlotta Liebenstein, who, having no surviving family, left her money to her German shepherd, Gunther. Gunther shared a name with her son, who had taken his own life at 26 and loved Gunther the dog. The administration of this trust, which benefits succeeding generations of Gunthers (they are now on Gunther VI), fell to an Italian family friend and former academic named Maurizio Mian, who built an organization around the dog, whose fortune has increased to something near half a billion dollars.

It’s a dog’s life, I’ve heard it said, which apparently means eating steak and caviar, whereas everything I eat comes out of a can. [Owner’s note: This is not true.] They buy Madonna’s old Miami mansion, because Gunther the son apparently dreamed of living in America, and the dog in some way represents his spirit. Gunther the dog likes being on the water, so here comes a yacht. Got to travel? Private jet.

Without being specific, the story goes on to involve a disco flop called “Wild Dog,” soccer teams, porn stars, the banking system of Liechtenstein, the “scientific” investigation of happiness and a trust-mandated assembly of hot male and female spokesmodels called the Burgundians who move in with Gunther and are constrained to live by “13 Commandments,” including having sex, taking drugs, making music, partying, being rich and living a “nontraditional” life without borders. “What’s the deal with this countess?,” you may reasonably ask.

I am told by the person who has commissioned me to write this review with promises of fish-flavored treats and keeping the heat on that a lot of what’s in this documentary is already in the public record — that’s clear from old TV clips and newspaper headlines — but it’s not a record most Americans are likely to have examined, and that in the end the filmmakers do make you look sympathetically and even sadly at these only-human humans. (They are more complicated than dogs, I’ll give them that.) I am also told that at times, especially when everyone is speaking Italian, the series can resemble an episode of “Documentary Now!,” whatever that is, and that as truth it’s stranger than fiction, and also very like fiction.

There are interviews with Mian, his ex-wives and partners, old Burgundians, current and former employees of the trust, one of the porn stars and a scary dude with tattoos who introduces himself as “God.” Everybody’s talking, but maybe not telling all they know, or not telling what they know right away or telling the truth at all. Even the filmmakers (Emilie Dumay and Aurelien Leturgie) are less than 100% forthright — sometimes when someone believes they’re speaking off the record, the directors keep filming anyway. Cats never fib; we get what we want by being adorable or irritating. Purring or hissing, we say what we mean.


As I understand these things, “Gunther’s Millions” is really quite good. Four paws up (I am lying on my back).

‘Gunther's Millions’

Where: Netflix

When: Anytime, starting Wednesday

Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17 with advisories for smoking, nudity and coarse language)