A new half-hour series coming to Apple TV+ asks the age-old question: Is that all there is?
In “The Big Door Prize,” we meet a man named Dusty whose fortieth birthday occurs in the first episode.
It is the age that is often invoked in these kinds of TV shows and movies as the go-to milestone in the living process when self-doubts followed by existential questions about the meaning of life are most likely to occur.
This mid-life letdown was once known as a mid-life crisis, and maybe it still is, although not necessarily at age 40. Just when does the male urge to buy a Corvette usually manifest itself? I really don’t know.
Played by Chris O’Dowd (above photo), Dusty is a high-school history teacher in a small town called Deerfield. He is married and has a teenage daughter.
And then, one day, the local grocer obtains a new coin-operated, fortune-telling machine that asks each user: What is your life potential?
For the cost of three quarters, the machine issues small blue cards to users with a message about their futures, generally in one word such as a card one of his students receives that said simply, “meteorologist.”
The boy becomes very excited, although he has no idea what a meteorologist is.
While a moment such as that one might sound lighthearted, it is an outlier. The vast majority of the moments in Episode One of “The Big Door Prize” are heavy-hearted.
Because of the message Dusty receives on his little blue card, he begins to question everything about his life up to that point.
He is also somewhat envious of others, since his friends and colleagues all seem to have drawn cheerier messages than he, adding to his mounting consternation about the state of his life.
Indeed, the machine -- named Morpho -- takes the town by storm as the local populace forms long lines outside the store for multiple visits to Morpho.
Perhaps in a later episode, things will go better for Dusty. Perhaps his big door prize will turn out to be something really special.
This show might be enjoyed by many. But when I previewed it the other day, I suppose I was in no mood to contemplate the meaning of life as the result of watching a TV show. I just came away feeling sad.
The thing is, until Dusty received this unsatisfactory fortune from a machine, he was perfectly happy with his life. Now he is not.
The takeaway? Avoid coin-operated machines in grocery stores.
“The Big Door Prize” starts streaming on Wednesday (March 29) on Apple TV+.
The concept here sure sounds similar to "Nick of Time," an episode from the second season of "The Twlight Zone" (11/18/60). Here's the logline: A pair of newlyweds stopping in a small town are trapped by their own superstition when playing a fortune-telling machine in a local diner.