In "The Big Door Prize," the new Apple TV+ show premiering March 29, Chris O'Dowd plays an Irish man whose life is dramatically altered by the sudden appearance of a supernatural machine that can predict your life potential.

What's scarier than knowing what you could be doing instead of what you are?

O'Dowd, 43, stars as an Irish man with the improbable name of Dusty Hubbard, who on his 40th birthday seems to have it all: a wife, a daughter, a career, a house, and a place in the community that seems to value his contributions. 

On the surface, his life looks close to perfect. But then he spots a game machine called Morpho in the general store where he pops in each morning for his daily coffee.

Intrigued, he asks the owner what it is and gets the mysterious answer that it arrived one night without explanation and since it's been bringing in more customers, he's not asking questions.

Morpho looks like an 80's video game machine, of the kind that used to litter the malls with its blue neon Tron stylings, but Dusty Hubbard isn't ready for the prospect of having his full potential revealed to him, so he demurs the offer.

But the idea of finding out quickly obsesses him. Then he discovers a triangle of bright blue dots on his backside that appear as mysteriously as Morpho has. What is going on? Could these developments be – as he suspects – connected? And is the name Morpho, which references the South American butterfly that appears to change shape as it flies, a huge clue?

This character-driven comedy has been created by Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner David West Read (best known for "Schitt's Creek") and stars an ensemble cast that's led by O’Dowd in an everyman performance that made me reference the late great Jimmy Stewart.

There's a "Twilight Zone" quality to the set up too that feels like a particularly philosophical episode of the classic '50s series, or perhaps a really good "Doctor Who" episode (O'Dowd would make a really great first Irish doctor, but would clearly pass on the role). 

Capturing the slightly rueful midlife tone of a man who has forgotten to ask himself if any of this is what he actually wants, O'Dowd's character tumbles through his day with a smile on his face and an awareness of his place in the universe, or at least in the small town Louisiana neighborhood where he lives and is known to all.

Chris O'Dowd in "The Big Door Prize." (Apple TV+)

Chris O'Dowd in "The Big Door Prize." (Apple TV+)

Teaching history is not the same as making it, he knows, but his students respect him and his class is a safe space for their personal expression and learning. Nevertheless, there's that question at the back of his mind: what if I'm doing the wrong thing, what if I'm made for something different, something better, some whole other life path?

What makes it worse is that he knows there is now a way to find the answer. It's located in the place he stops into every morning to pick up a cup of joe. How long will he be able to resist the temptation to have a look? Not very long as it predictably turns out. 

Irish actors are particularly good at portraying barely concealed hopes and dreams, and it's probably the cultural inheritance of a colonized people to whom the future was not promised and the past was often a source of pain. Or maybe they're just really talented, but O'Dowd makes you feel his character's inner life and conflict with an impressive degree of subtlety.

Before he gathers the courage to consult Morpho, O'Dowd's character witnesses the changes it is bringing about in the people around him. One person buys herself a Harley Davidson, another pursues his calling as a stage magician, another looks shaken to his core by what he reads. 

The show raises the deeper and rather unsettling idea that everyone has more than one potential life path. You can stay where you are kicking around surroundings that may not be personally entirely rewarding or fulfilling, but that at least are familiar. 

Or you could gather yourself up, head for the cliff edge, and just jump, not knowing where you'll end up or with who. But Dusty Hubbard isn't the type of man to step off a high cliff without assurances so he spends the majority of episode one watching others through caution to the wind. 

Chris O'Dowd in "The Big Door Prize." (Apple TV+)

Chris O'Dowd in "The Big Door Prize." (Apple TV+)

Apple TV+ has been busy bringing Irish talent to the screen with shows like "Bad Sisters" and now this Irish-led comedy-drama with equally disturbing undercurrents under the hood.

Everyone enjoys a good story about a man or woman who one day throws caution to the wind and breaks out for a new chapter in some previously staid existence. We are hardwired to crave the novel, but what about what we are leaving behind?

"The Big Door Prize" looks backward and forward and O'Dowd is perfectly cast (and the perfect age) to play this fraught man who wants to leave and wants to stay and can't figure out what the best path is.

When he finally gets his answer, when Morpho asks for his social security number and then scans his hands and studies his fingerprints you get the sense before the answer comes that it won't be what Dusty Hubbard wants to hear. But it may be what he needs to hear, and that's why this show runs a little deeper than your usual diverting comedy drama. 

Based on the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by M. O. Walsh - an Irish-sounding name if I ever heard one, but there is no note of his heritage on the net - the Apple TV+ show feels like an '80s movie that combines second start at life elements like "Cocoon" with slightly eerie storylines like "Groundhog Day."

O'Dowd has distinguished himself in memorable turns like the terrifically directed and acted EPIX series "Get Shorty," based on the classic movie, but in recent years, he has also appeared on the West End in the critically acclaimed Nick Payne drama "Constellations."

"The Big Door Prize" has cult hit that quickly transforms into widespread success written all over it. The premise is so involving, funny, cringy, and human that you can't help being drawn in by the human dumpster fire and human joy Morpho creates in about equal measure. 

Nothing is fixed or fated, the show reminds us. The potential to live a new life, under a new sky, under new rules is in no one's hands but your own, it's as inspiring and as terrifying as that.

"The Big Door Prize" premieres on Apple TV+ on March 29.