Review by Tatiana Miranda
Based on the book of the same name by M.O. Walsh, The Big Door Prize poses questions for both its characters and the audience about their potential and asks how far they'll go in order to fulfill it. The ten-episode first season opens on high school history teacher Dusty as he celebrates his 40th birthday with his wife, Cass, and teenage daughter, Trina. What seems to be an ordinary day in their small town of Deerfield is quickly derailed by a mysterious machine that appeared in the general store overnight. On the front of the machine are the words "Morpho. Discover Your Life Potential." Deerfield's inhabitants quickly spread the news of the machine and its magical ability to assign you your potential with just $2 and your handprint and social security number.
Soon, everyone in Deerfield has used the Morpho, with some residents gaining specific roles such as "Male Model" or "Tattoo Artist." Others have more ambiguous potentials, including "Royalty" and "Hero." Characters like Dusty question the validity of the machine, but more so the effect the results have on the townspeople. For some, their "potential" pushes them to quit their job or get a divorce. For Cass, Dusty's wife and daughter of the mayor, her Morpho result pushes her to take action and gain confidence.
Eight out of the ten episodes focus on specific members of the town, such as Cass's mom Izzy, Jacob (who is one of Dusty's students), and the town priest. The Big Door Prize's small-town setting plays a big part in the plot and has the same comedic elements as show developer David West Read's previous work on Schitt's Creek. While the conversations surrounding potential and missed opportunities feel realistic, the show's characters are extravagant and theatrical, making the Morpho's presence feel a little less otherwordly. Each character has such a distinct personality and storyline that — although most of the show focuses on Dusty and his family — the audience is able to see how the Morpho has impacted other Deerfield residents.
Although The Big Door Prize doesn't answer every question it poses, it is entertaining and thought-provoking to boot. With its open-ended season finale, it wouldn't be surprising to find out a second season is coming. While the show is very comical in both its scenarios and character interactions, its heavy-hitting conversations are likely to spur similar discussions for the audience.
The Big Door Prize is now streaming on Apple TV+. All ten episodes reviewed.