If you could know your true potential, would you want to?
This is the central question at the center of the new series The Big Door Prize.
Based on a novel of the same name, the ten-episode comedy is set in a small town that is forever changed when the appearance of a mysterious machine promises to reveal each resident’s true life potential, if they want to know.
The series stars Chris O’Dowd, Gabrielle Dennis, Josh Segarra, Sammy Fourlas, and Djouliet Amara.
While the book is the source material, executive producer David West Read emphasizes that, “We really are just using [that] as a jumping off point. The concept of the book is the seed that we’re planting for the series. There’s so many creative brains that have come together to start building something completely different from the book, and leaning into mystery and magic in this series open[s] up the possibilities of where it could go. Our mythology is deep and we’re asking questions as we answer questions and making sure that we pay the mystery forward with this show so that we have the longest road possible.”
Read does say that one of the elements of the book that he wanted to preserve was the idea of the word ‘potential.’
“It’s ambiguous and that it’s very much open to interpretation,” explains Read. “We have a debate within the show similar to conversations in the writer’s room, [saying] ‘Well, potential isn’t destiny, and there’s difference between something that’s preordained and free will.’ So, I like that the machine doesn’t provide all of the answers – it just provides questions – and that the interpretation of the machine is more important than the verdict that the machine might be giving you.”
He adds, “I think the way that I like to look at it is nothing that the machine tells you in the show, none of it is something you haven’t thought about before necessarily, but, the machine is like this divining rod that brings to the surface those things that we haven’t openly discussed with others or even openly admitted to ourselves.”
To this end, he says that with regard to the tone of the series, “There’s a slightly unsettling feeling to the show that creeps in over time because the idea of being told your potential itself is very aspirational at first, but reckoning with whether that’s possible is slightly more unsettling.”
However, O’Dowd wants to be clear that even though the premise seems serious, the series is a comedy, looking at the ethics involved in major life decisions using humor.
He says that he was attracted to the material because, “I love that central premise that we may have a second go-around; that there can be this reset where this part that we had been trying to fulfill all of our lives was actually some kind of façade or joke or trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations — then suddenly if you follow what you were supposed to, then maybe we’ll find some kind of happiness. I think there’s something fun in that premise.”
And, he says that one of the best things about this show is that, “As a species, we’re always looking for answers of some kind; we’re all looking for some kind of an answer as to what else is there. And this small town is a microcosm of that, so it’s interesting to watch all of these people either embrace or reject, or whether they like it or not, be influenced by the idea of an oracle. We can see that happening in society all the time.”
‘The Big Door Prize debuts is available for streaming on Apple TV+