Now Streaming: THE BIG DOOR PRIZE, Magical Machine, Mundane Thinking

Chris O'Dowd stars in the lightly comic series, premiering globally on Apple TV+.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
Now Streaming: THE BIG DOOR PRIZE, Magical Machine, Mundane Thinking

Stop me if you've heard this one before: a small town, filled with quirky characters.

The Big Door Prize
The first three episodes are now streaming on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will debut weekly. I've seen all 10 episodes.

First published in 2020, M.O. Walsh's critically-praised novel was set in a fictional small town in Louisiana (in the south-central United States). Created by David West Read (Schitt's Creek), the series reflects the region's increasingly diverse population, where people of different backgrounds and races are creating a melting pot of quirky, self-involved characters who are united in their shared desire to make huge changes in their lives as directed by a mysterious machine that instantly discerns their life's potential.

It's the latter point that I have difficulty swallowing, even for fictional purposes. But that's the crux of the series. One night, the machine, labeled Morpho, arrives in the town's general store, origin unknown. By the next night, the machine's ability to dispense a card that appears personalized, based on an individual's DNA, has wrapped up the entire town in great excitement.

Maybe I've been missing out by living in a big city?

Chris O'Down brings his likable, hangdog presence to Dusty, the series protagonist. Dusty, who is very Irish, is a 40-year-old high-school teacher, married for 20 years to Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), who is vaguely discontent with her lot in life, still dreaming of a summer in Europe during her college days and wishing she could go back. That's in contrast to Dusty, who claims to be super content and can't figure out why everyone else isn't the same.

Their daughter Trina (Djouliet Amara) is still grieving the recent accidental death of her boyfriend, while often in the company of her dead boyfriend's identical-twin brother, the moody Jacob (Sammy Fourlas). The first three episodes focus on Dusty, Cass and Jacob, while it's not until the fifth episode that the spotlight moves to Trina.

If each of the characters was complex, fascinating, funny, or likable , then it would be much easier to recommend The Big Door Prize. As manifested in the series, however, most of the characters are self-involved and mildly irritating, at best, and flippantly arrogant and unkind to others, at worst, making up a mixed bag of people to populate a town that is described as small, yet can sustain a large, faux-Italian restaurant where most of the town somehow can afford to eat every night.

In small doses, the series can feel like a pleasant fantasy, a change of pace. To my mind, it works better when it stays light and silly, and becomes a drag when it tries to inject more serious moments, which feel ponderous. The actors do their level best to hit the tone, which wavers from comedy to drama at will, and are mostly successful.

It's entirely possible that more episodes will allow the series to find its footing with greater surety. A second season of the series has already been ordered, so maybe that will help. Until then, give it a try and see if you like the taste of the first episode.

Now Streaming covers international and indie genre films and TV shows that are available on legal streaming services.

The Big Door Prize

  • Ally Maki
  • Crystal Fox
  • Djouliet Amara
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Apple TV+Chris O'DowdDavid West ReadUSAlly MakiCrystal FoxDjouliet AmaraComedy

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