Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), and written by Timothy Greenberg, Living with Yourself is a new Netflix sitcom starring Paul Rudd in a dual role as the dismal and downbeat Miles and his much cheerier and more upbeat clone (referred to by Netflix’s subtitles as ‘New Miles’) and Irish comic Aisling Bea as his wife Kate.
When Miles goes for an experimental spa treatment, he digs himself out of the ground only to find that he’s been replaced by a clone who, by all accounts, is better than him. New Miles’ concepts succeed at work, he seems to get along better with Kate in a marriage that was previously strained and overall seems much more desirable and appealing than the original. The series goes on to follow the push and pull between Old and New Miles, with each trying to find the ideal place in their life. Themes such as the differences between memory and experience are played out; how a person’s experiences affect them, and if New Miles really is better – or if real humans are better, warts and all.
They’re interesting questions, and interesting themes, but sometimes it doesn’t feel as if the series delves as deeply as it could. Granted, the show is a comedy, but Little Miss Sunshine is also ostensibly a comedy that adeptly examined everything from pageant culture and ruined dreams to depression. It feels as if Living With Yourself misses the mark in this regard: it begins to touch on promising ideas of experiences shaping people, but it’s intended conclusion seems unclear.
The show is also reasonably confusing. This is a given, considering that it deals with a man and his clone, but sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which Miles you’re following, even when it’s not supposed to be. This worsens particularly as the show descends further and further into mania, characterised by glitchier title cards – a nice addition. The two Miles blurring into each other as they grow more similar is a clever narrative touch, but makes the show increasingly hard to follow. The choice to jump about in time makes this even trickier to navigate. The show’s time-jumping makes for some particularly emotional beats, especially in its exploration of the couple’s marriage through time, but its choice to have both clones and not remain linear means that viewers can become lost.
However, it is undeniably funny. Paul Rudd plays spectacularly off of… well, Paul Rudd. His comic chops shine through, and in the vessel of a TV show, so do his dramatic abilities (which often are the source of the comedy). Watching Miles fighting himself is nothing short of mildly hysterical (even when it takes a turn). For a moment, it feels like the show is turning into the plot of the Pina Colada song – which Miles proceeds to make reference to. Living With Yourself differentiates itself from most other sitcoms through its distinctive direction: full of beautiful and more experimental shots for the sitcom landscape. More thoughtful than your standard comedic fare, it is definitely an intriguing series to keep an eye on.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia