Stream It or Skip It?

Telling the story of an influencer before that was even a thing, Fortune Seller: A TV Scam recounts the story of an Italian telemarketing mogul who made billions selling diet pills before controversy ensued. Is it enough to get a true crime treatment?

Opening Shot: The series opens with the image of an older woman’s hands folded in her lap before pulling back to reveal her in a typical documentary confessional. She boasts about being able to sell anything – and a producer puts her to the test by handing her a pen, and she comes up with a pitch on the spot.

The Gist: Wanna Marchi came from humble beginnings as a beautician in an unhappy marriage, and she quickly discovers her knack for selling when she starts to sell beauty products from her store. Suddenly finding fame and fortune from appearances on a QVC-type of shopping channel on Italian TV in the 1970s and 80s, Marchi leans into the public’s infatuation with body image and good looks and begins selling slimming products. Soon, she faced allegations about her business even though she was still successfully selling millions of products just by appearing on TV.

Wanna Marchi and Stefania Nobile in 'Fortune Seller: A TV Scam.'
Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The series is most reminiscent of the recent Prime Video docuseries LuLaRich, which dove into the online LuLaRoe leggings empire, which was also built from scratch.

Our Take: For true crime to really bite, there has to be a hook. For Wanna Marchi, it’s her ability to sell anything and everything — from the first shot, we know exactly what kind of character we’re dealing with and how she has gotten to this point where she is the subject of a documentary.

Unfortunately, that’s where the intrigue ends for Fortune Seller: A TV Scam. The first episode of the series does little to set up the ensuing conflict and chaos incited by her empire — to put it bluntly, by the end of the first episode, it’s not clear what makes her the subject of a true crime documentary. Marchi is presented as a charismatic figure who told a few white lies about her product’s benefits, but it’s not engrossing enough to warrant a four-hour investigation into her business practices.

While Marchi’s life story is inherently interesting — from simple roots to a billion dollar industry — the way that the story is presented is perhaps the most perplexing. Without immediate indication of what crimes she’s committed (or being accused of committing), it leaves audiences wondering what exactly the story trying to be told is.

Sex and Skin: None, unless you count the many topless but not explicit photos of Marchi’s daughter Stefania who often posed for photos this way “because she could.”

Parting Shot: Wanna Marchi’s shop is set on fire, and each of the documentary’s figureheads react to the occurrence.

Sleeper Star: Marchi’s daughter Stefania becomes her accomplice and reaps the benefits of her mother’s fortune, much of which she spent on her obsession with watches.

Most Pilot-y Line:: “The only thing I can do? Sell. Give me something to sell and I’ll sell it, no problem.” The opening to the documentary lays out exactly who and what the series is about: a professional seller.

Our Call: SKIP IT. Marchi is a fascinating figure but her presence as a true crime subject falls flat.

Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Vulture, Teen Vogue, Paste Magazine, and more. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.

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