TV: The Big Door Prize (Season 2)

Despite flying under the radar, The Big Door Prize received a welcome renewal from Apple TV+ after its artistically strong first season. Season two isn’t quite as polished, but overall it’s still a joy, contributing to the service’s stellar track record for addictive, high-quality serial storytelling.

A gentle, comic fantasy set in the fictional small town of Deerfield, the show revolves around a mysterious novelty vending machine called “the Morpho,” which dispenses cryptic fortune cards purporting to reveal the recipient’s life potential. The Morpho’s nebulous, highly interpretable guidance proves disruptive to the citizens of Deerfield, particularly for Dusty (Chris O’Dowd) and Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), a married couple whose cards intimate that entwining their lives may have inhibited their individual fulfillment. This becomes even clearer during the Morpho’s second stage, which bestows upon its users animated “visions” meant to unlock the meaning of their life-potential cards. This sets off another round of furious self-examination in the town, including a trial separation for Dusty and Cass that threatens to shatter their outwardly idyllic family dynamic.

The Big Door Prize is just such a warm, fuzzy watch, sitting nicely alongside shows like Lodge 49 and The Good Place in the surreal, good-natured way it channels its characters’ personal growth into smile-inducing interaction. Season one’s superior effectiveness may have stemmed from its unassuming nature, and the way the vagueness of the cards served as an amusing philosophical springboard for Deerfield’s quirky denizens. If season two has a flaw, it’s that it tries a smidge too hard to achieve what came more naturally the first time around. Unlike the cards, which generated mystique by triggering inner journeys that left much to the imagination, the animated visions dispel mystique—still cryptic, they nonetheless spell too much out. Aside from that broad, high-level criticism, though, The Big Door Prize remains a delightful, low-key escape thanks to an absolutely winning cast. Especially charming are Djouliet Amara (as Dusty and Cass’s insightful daughter Trina) and Sammy Fourlas (as Trina’s sardonic, laid-back boyfriend Jacob). But it’s also a strong year for Josh Segarra, whose amusingly affected Giorgio steals every scene. The show’s best asset may be its tone, which channels the characters’ distress in a reassuringly upbeat way that lets the viewer know they are in safe hands. The end of the season points toward even weirder potential developments, so hopefully the show will be extended, because Deerfield is just so fun, comforting, and entertaining to visit.

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