I love true crime documentaries, but since the big boom of them across platforms we’ve been getting copies of the same dark stories we all know. That said, there has been a growing number of documentaries and docu-series that look at eccentricity and absurdity that run parallel with the crime. And that’s what we get with The Big Conn, Apple TV+’s new four-part documentary series that tells the unbelievable true story of larger-than-life attorney, Eric C. Conn. The docuseries was created by filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte.
Obsessed with his own self-worth, learning Spanish to pick up women, and traveling once a month to wherever he possibly could, Conn defrauded the government over half a billion dollars in the largest Social Security fraud case in history. By working with other members in the courts, Conn managed to get his clients millions, and himself even more.
The Big Conn does a wonderful job of not getting swept up in Conn’s eccentricity. Unlike other documentaries that are so focused on the strange that they lose sight of the victims, this one highlights moments of absurdity while also making sure that the victims stay at the center of the narrative. The balancing act that The Big Conn pulls off is something I’m particularly thankful for. Hernandez and Lazarte are able to essentially bottle up Conn’s brand of rich old white man chaos and distill the actual narrative from it, particularly because it uses one journalist’s investigation into the man to center itself.
With its first episode, The Big Conn sets up the stage, the players, and where Conn’s story will take you. We see the journalist question Conn’s life and connections and we also see a portrait of a man with a lot, and I mean a lot, of money. One giant Abraham Lincoln statue and hiring a adult film star for his commercials, Conn did just as he pleases no matter how eccentric it looked. And yet, the clients kept on coming.
The weight of the series comes when the fallout begins to spread across the small Kentucky community. While the first episode contextualizes some of the community’s struggle, it’s easy to think, “Well, he didn’t defraud people, just the federal government.” I mean, the federal government isn’t great. But as we hear interviews and see the impact of the fraud, it’s very clear that this was no Robin Hood situation, despite the way Conn viewed himself as helping others.
One of the hard things with docuseries, and documentaries in general, is that you have to have a story that people know or can find out about in a way that keeps you engaged. That’s what The Big Conn does. The way that the events are constructed and the way the interviews were conducted keep you invested in the series the entire time.
There is a weight of absurdity that works very well and makes Conn more than just a simple conman. But at the same time, as it all unravels, the series doesn’t lose sight of highlighting the negative impact of Conn’s predatory behavior and the manipulation involved in his success. In addition, though, The Big Conn makes a point to showcase the different elements at play in a corrupt small-town system that allowed this fraud to grow and grow.
The Big Conn is available now on AppleTV+.
If you’re looking to dive deeper into the series, an original companion podcast is also debuting on May 6 on Apple Podcasts. It will explore Conn’s con and outrageous lifestyle further with additional interviews and behind-the-scenes details.
The Big Conn
There is a weight of absurdity that works very well and makes Conn more than just a simple conman. But at the same time, as it all unravels, the series doesn’t lose sight of highlighting the negative impact of Conn’s predatory behavior and the manipulation involved in his success.