M.O. Walsh’s 2020 novel The Big Door Prize spins a fantastical yarn about a new machine that shows up one day in the grocery store of a Louisiana town — a machine that looks like a phone booth and can tell anyone who forks over two dollars and a cheek swab what the rest of their life has in store for them. If you haven’t given the book a try yet, you’ll get another chance to enjoy this story come March in the form of an Apple TV+ adaptation of Walsh’s novel starring Chris O’Dowd.
The Big Door Prize coming March 29
This 10-episode half-hour series will debut its first three episodes on March 29 — making this another somewhat unusual mid-week debut for an Apple title — with one new episode every Wednesday thereafter through May 17.
From the official Apple TV+ description of The Big Door Prize:
“The Big Door Prize tells the story of a small town that is forever changed when a mysterious machine appears in the general store, promising to reveal each resident’s true life potential. Dusty Hubbard (O’Dowd), a seemingly content, cheerful family man and high school teacher, watches everyone around him reevaluate their life choices and ambitions — based on the machine’s printouts — and is forced to question whether he is truly as happy as he once thought.”
Dusty, as you can tell from the above snapshot, is initially skeptical of the machine — though his wife Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), is swept up in the magic of it, and in the machine’s implied guarantee that there’s something bigger “out there” for her. She and Dusty have, like so many of the show’s small-town residents, lived a safe and uncomplicated life.
The machine changes all that, forcing a reconciliation of the comfortable present with dreams deferred and with the promise of a better future.
‘The perfect soother for these troubled times’
For my money, Apple’s streaming service could not have chosen a more perfectly timed novel to adapt into a series. There’s never really a bad time to capture a reader’s imagination with the tantalizing prospect of “what could be,” inspiring people to bring a renewed zeal to the unfulfilled potential of their lives. And that’s all the more true in our collective post-pandemic malaise.
“Walsh’s brand of comic tenderness is the perfect soother for these troubled times,” reads a review of The Big Door Prize from The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. “Like Thornton Wilder or Edgar Lee Masters, those other masters of the small town collective portrait, Walsh probes the secrets at the heart of individual lives and reminds us to look long, listen hard, and offer compassion.”
The Apple TV+ version of The Big Door Prize comes from creator David West Read, who was also a writer for Schitt’s Creek. And in addition to O’Dowd and Dennis, the cast includes Ally Maki, Josh Segarra, Damon Gupton, Crystal Fox, Djouliet Amara and Sammy Fourlas.