REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
Miles Elliott seems to have it all. He has a good job as a well-regarded copywriter at Pools Marketing; he has a beautiful, loving wife, big house, fancy car. But something’s not quite right, he’s in a rut; he feels tired, jaded, as if life has somehow passed him by. He’s at an impasse. One of his work colleagues tells him about the Top Happy Spa, which can cleanse an individual’s DNA and make them feel like literally a new man. But it costs. Miles extracts $50,000 from the family savings and undergoes a very unusual treatment at a very unusual spa. He wakes up in a transparent body bag in a shallow grave in the middle of a forest… dressed in a nappy (it’s the show’s opening sequence). It’s not at all what he was expecting. He manages to make his way home… only to find that he’s already there. His home – and his life – is being occupied by an identical version of himself. A hurried trip back to the spa confirms the unthinkable - he has been ‘replaced’ by a cloned copy of himself, a copy with none of the doubts, fears, or failings of his ‘original’ self; the ‘new’ Miles is bold, confident, self-assured. How can Miles come to terms with his extraordinary new circumstances – how can he learn to live with himself?
Living With Yourself has been described, a little lazily, as a sitcom, and while there are a few (often bittersweet) laughs to be had across its eight episodes (which do, in fairness, tend to run to the traditional twenty-five minute model of most US Network comedies), this is really a show which sits squarely side-by-side with the likes of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. Living With Yourself plays on our obsessions with identity and self-worth and our tendency to wish that our lives were perhaps just a bit better than they actually are and how they might be different if we were different. It’s occasionally disconcerting too. The original Miles tries to concoct a lifestyle whereby the two identicals can co-exist, but his own life and purpose are quickly in danger of being subsumed because the “new” Miles can do everything he can but better, quicker, and more efficiently. It’s not a status quo that can be maintained, and eventually, about halfway through the series, the situation comes to a head, and Miles finds himself fighting for his sanity and his life and his marriage.
Living With Myself tells a snappy, compact story across its short run. Paul Rudd is as effortlessly watchable as ever, and he brilliantly differentiates between the schlubby Miles and the smarter, more dynamic Miles. Aisling Bea quickly elevates what threatens to be a dreary ‘wifey’ roles into something far better and more interesting when she becomes aware of what’s happened and finds the ‘new’ Miles more alluring than the one she married. The show deftly plays with narrative conventions by recounting key moments from different perspectives, often winding back to an incident earlier and revisiting it in a way that almost entirely changes its meaning and its importance. It makes this a show that pretty much demands to be binged for fear of missing or forgetting some vital quirky plot point which suddenly means something else entirely in the context of the new way we’ve been invited to look at it.
The idea of clone replacement and duplication is nothing new in our fiction, of course, but Living With Yourself flies because of its naturalistic, relatable setting, its largely likeable cast and effects work so subtle that you start to believe that there really are two Paul Rudds on screen interacting with one another and trying to live the same life. This is intelligent, intoxicating television, warm and witty and yet thought-provoking and perhaps even a little disconcerting as it makes us look at ourselves a little more closely than we might really want to. Fingers crossed for Season 2.