Everybody’s favorite soccer coach is currently basking in the spotlight over on Apple TV Plus right now. And that’s understandable, Ted Lasso is the show that put the streaming service on the map, and its third season has got off to a pretty excellent start (although some viewers aren't impressed). And yet, I can’t help but feel there’s a show on Apple TV Plus right now that is equally deserving of attention: The Big Door Prize.
This dramedy blends together smart humor with more serious topics like growing older and struggling with a sense of unfulfillment. Okay, so those are far from the most original themes for a streaming show, but The Big Door Prize gets a lot of mileage from a pretty familiar formula. And it’s series like this that keeps Apple TV Plus in the conversation when it comes to discussing the best streaming services.
What is The Big Door Prize about?
Based on the novel of the same name by author M.O. Wash, The Big Door Prize opens with high school teacher Dusty Hubbard (Chris O’Dowd) celebrating his 40th birthday with his loving wife and snarky teenage daughter. He’s a man with a simple but fulfilling life, until that harmony is upended by the mysterious appearance of a strange machine at his local grocery store.
This blue machine with Morpho written across it doesn’t dispense candy; rather it’s able to predict the maximum potential of anybody who uses it. Soon the citizens of the small town of Deerfield are making massive life decisions based on what the Morpho machine has told them, and Dusty becomes obsessed with it. However, skeptical of its legitimacy, he refuses to get a life potential reading of his own, at least at first.
Eagle-eyed observers might notice that each episode of The Big Door Prize is named after a character in the show (episode 1 is called Dusty, episode 2 is called Cass etc.). That’s because in each episode, a different member of the cast takes center stage. This helps to explore the impact of the Morpho machine from a variety of perspectives. Sure, it might sound like a gimmick but it’s a very smart way of telling this particular story.
What do critics say about The Big Door Prize?
Apple TV Plus has rapidly earned itself a reputation for producing critically acclaimed shows including the likes of Severance, For All Mankind and, of course, Ted Lasso. The Big Door Prize is another to add to this list as this show has been a treat with critics.
Over on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, The Big Door Prize has scored an impressive 94% from 31 reviews, which is enough to earn it the coveted Certified Fresh seal of approval. Its audience score is similarly high at 93%, showing that viewers are just as receptive to this one as critics — which isn’t always the case like with The Night Agent on Netflix.
Craig Mathieson of Australian publication The Age was impressed with Chris O’Dowd’s performance, saying “O’Dowd, who has come a long way from The IT Crowd, is a terrific emotional weathervane, with Dusty buffeted as his own certainties disappear."
Another positive write-up came from Amber Dowling of Variety: “It takes a beat to get into the unique tone of the series, and to accept the magical realism that stops by now and again. But by the end you do care about what happens to these people.” Robert Lloyd of The Los Angeles Times was similarly taken with the series, writing “The Big Door Prize is easy to like and even embrace.”
Of course, not every critic was quite so enthusiastic about the low-stakes show. Nandini Baliai of RogerEbert.com was particularly scathing, saying that The Big Door Prize “attempts to marry drama and comedy and fails at both, all while featuring Pinterest-perfect production design and writing that smarts of the Hallmark Channel.” But this more negative review is something of an outlier.
Why you should watch The Big Door Prize on Apple TV Plus
If you’re looking for something to watch that goes down easy, then The Big Door Prize is an obvious choice. But it would be a mistake to dismiss this show as simple. It’s got plenty to say about human nature and what it really means to “live your best life.”
It’s a smart and thoughtful comedy with just the right amount of drama to keep you interested between episodes. Plus, there are currently four episodes available — new ones dropping weekly — so right now you’ve got a small stack to binge-watch if you’re just discovering the series.
In fact, The Big Door Prize actually pairs nicely with Ted Lasso. They’re the type of shows that could imagine being part of the same evening lineup back in the days when network television was king.
So, if you’re an Apple TV Plus subscriber and you’re looking for something new to watch that doesn’t star an eternally optimistic soccer coach, The Big Door Prize should do nicely. And be sure to watch Shrinking as well, it’s another Apple TV Plus winner.