Developed by David West Read from the namesake book by M.O. Walsh, Apple TV+ ‘s ‘The Big Door Prize’ is a surreal comedy series that tells the story of the residents of a small town called Deerfield, where a mysterious machine is discovered in a grocery store one day. Called the Morpho machine, it reveals a person’s life potential in exchange for two dollars, social security number, and fingerprints. As more and more people in Deerfield learn about their life potential, they wonder whether their lives are on the correct path. Although each episode focuses on a different character, the Hubbard family remains integral to the narrative.
Dusty (Chris O’Dowd) is a history teacher at the local school, a family man, and a gifted whistler. He is married to Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), who constantly struggles under the vicious scrutiny of her emotionally cruel mother. Cass and Dusty’s daughter, Trina (Djouliet Amara), deals with a mixture of guilt and grief following the death of her boyfriend. ‘The Big Door Prize’ is also a show about how these three individuals interact with each other and the other characters. If you have watched and loved the series, here is a list of recommendations that might fit your taste. You can watch most of these shows like ‘The Big Door Prize’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
8. This Is Jinsy (2010-2014)
Created by Justin Chubb and Chris Bran, the world is of ‘This is Jimsy’ delightfully surreal and bizarre. Like ‘The Big Door Prize,’’ this British comedy series is set in a small settlement. The narrative revolves around various strange residents of the fictional island of Jinsy, yet the Arbiter Maven, and his underling Sporall, who govern the town, remain at the center of the plot. The series creators based Jimsy on Guernsey, an island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy, where they hail from.
7. Atlanta (2016–2022)
Admittedly, ‘Atlanta’ is much more prominent in scope and set in one of America’s major cities, but it still resonates with the surreal weirdness of ‘The Big Door Prize.’ The comedy-drama series revolves around the everyday life of Earn (Donald Glover) in the eponymous city. Life once held promises for him, but then he dropped out of Princeton and is now forced to contend with homelessness and poverty. Hoping to improve his circumstances to be more involved in his daughter’s life, Earn convinces his cousin, up-and-coming rapper Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, to hire him as his manager.
6. The Leftovers (2014–2017)
Like The Big Door Prize,’ ‘The Leftovers’ is a sci-fi series set in a small town and has been developed from a book. Based on Tom Perrotta’s 2011 novel of the same name, ‘The Leftovers’ is a supernatural drama series created by Perrotta and Damon Lindelof. It explores the aftermath of a global event known as the “Sudden Departure,” in which 140 million people disappear for unknown reasons. In the subsequent years, new religions are conceptualized, while the old ones experience a steep decline.
The first season is set in a Deerfield-like small town, a fictionalized version of Mapleton, New York. The plot predominantly focuses on the town’s chief of police, Kevin Garvey, and his family. Kevin and his wife Laurie are part of a newfound religion called Guilty Remnant, the leader of which believes himself to be the Second Coming of Christ. The people’s reaction to the Sudden Departure is rather similar to the arrival of the Morpho machine in Deerfield, though the former happens on a much larger scale. It shakes people’s moral, social, and religious beliefs, fundamentally changing how they perceive the world around them.
5. Scrubs (2001–2010)
On the surface, ‘Scrubs’ is a medical comedy series. But as anyone who has watched a single episode of the show will tell you, it’s a complex exploration of human existence through slapstick and surrealistic humor. The main character is John Michael “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff), a young doctor with a fertile imagination. At the beginning of the series, he begins working at Sacred Heart Hospital along with several other interns, including the surgical intern and his best friend, Christopher Turk. Although J.D. and his friends, mentors, and colleagues deal with life and death daily, their struggle is often with internal grief, just like some of the characters of ‘The Big Door Prize.’
4. Stranger Things (2016- )
A love letter to the 1980s pop culture, ‘Stranger Things’ is set in Hawkins, Indiana, a quintessential American small town like Deerfield. The science fiction aspect in ‘Stranger Things’ is rather prevalent, whereas it is subtle in ‘The Big Door Prize,’ but it’s very much present. The plot follows a group of friends who encounter a girl named Eleven, and their lives forever change. It turns out that Eleven is the product of a secret government experiment, and with the coming of inter-dimensional monsters, she is the last hope humanity has.
3. Schitt’s Creek (2015–2020)
Not only ‘Schitt’s Creek’ is another show set in a small town but also David West Read was an Executive Producer and writer on it. Although ‘Schitt’s Creek’ is a brutal satire on the wealthy class, the influence of Read’s sense of comedy is very much present in it. The characters are depicted with rare candidness, and the inherent satire is not directed at them but at society. ‘Schitt’s Creek’ is a sitcom by Dan and Eugene Levy that revolves around the wealthy Rose family, whose members lose everything after their business partner defrauds their fortune. This forces the family to move to the eponymous town, which the patriarch had purchased as a joke for his son’s birthday.
2. Gravity Falls (2012–2016)
The only animated series on this list, ‘Gravity Falls’ is set in the eponymous town in Roadkill County, Oregon, where 12-year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines arrive to spend their summer vacation with their great uncle, Stan Pines (alternatively Grunkle Stan). The twins soon discover that not everything that they seem in Gravity Falls. After Dipper comes across a mysterious journal in the forest, he and his sister go about solving the various mysteries they find across the town. Beyond the common small-town setting of both shows, family, science fiction, and surreal narrative are some of the other aspects found in ‘Gravity Falls’ and ‘The Big Door Prize.’
1. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
The sheer uniqueness of the narrative of ‘The Big Door Prize’ effectively makes it seem like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone,’ the legendary sci-fi horror TV series from the late 1950s and early 1960s. During its six-season run on CBS, the anthology series ensured a long-lasting legacy. It was created by Rod Serling, who also serves as the main host and presenter. Every episode deals with a new story and features newcomers and industry veterans. In the ensuing years, ‘The Twilight Zone’ has come to be viewed as one of the most creatively well-made science fiction series of all time.
Read More: Where is The Big Door Prize Filmed?