Is ‘Living With Yourself’ Worth a Binge?
Is this show worth a binge watch? That question underlies every new streaming show competing for our attention. When the trailer for Netflix’s Sci-Fi dramedy Living With Yourself came out, I was excitedly sharing it with friends. The premise of a clone experiment gone wrong intrigued me, especially if it meant two helpings of the ageless, charming Paul Rudd. The show dropped Friday on Netflix and I binged it all in one sitting Sunday night. Was it worth my time? And would it be worth yours?
Let’s run through a mostly spoiler-free pros and cons list to help you decide:
Pro–It’s a good premise
Rudd plays Miles, a middle aged guy stuck in a rut with his job and marriage, who sees his co-worker Dan (Desmin Borges, best known from You’re The Worst) thriving after some mysterious procedure. Miles accepts Dan’s referral to a mystery spa, which, for $50k , will turn Miles into the best version of himself. But things go wrong when the original, believed-to-be-dead Miles survives along with the new-and-improved cloned Miles.
Original shlubby Miles crawls out of the grave, finds his way home and realizes he now has to compete with the superior cloned version of himself who’s living in his house with his wife. The trailer has us believe original shlubby Miles will spend the first season’s eight episodes trying to kill New Miles. That’s part of it, but there’s a lot more to this mostly successful series, where both versions of Miles try to co-exist at work and home. How will his wife deal with the news? Is there room for both versions of Miles in this universe? Will he solve the issues he had before the cloning, or will they just get more complicated?
Con–The message is a little tired.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A middle-aged guy, bored of his mid-level job and dissatisfied with his marriage, realizes how good he has it after he loses the life that bores him. The cloning aspect is pretty fresh, but ultimately that’s the theme and we’ve seen other vehicles execute it far better. However, they do a good job of showing that it wasn’t just that Miles had a good life he wasn’t appreciating. He stopped doing the work to be a better person, and that’s why the good life went away.
Pro–The non-linear, various points of view works.
The show features various points of view. We see a few scenes a couple different times from both the old and new Miles’ perspectives, but it doesn’t feel gimmicky and it keeps things fresh, with forward narrative momentum. Telling the story in this unusual way, often out of order, adds dimension to the world, keeping us on our toes. We jump around in the weeks before and after cloning and even a few years in the past when things were looking better for original Miles. This often makes up for the next demerit.
Con–It’s uneven and unsuccessful at times.
With two Mileses trying to co-exist, Living With Yourself keeps most the balls in the air, but a couple drop with a thud. A few subplots go nowhere or feel tacked on, which is odd for such a short series. Why do we spend half of the finale with Miles arrested for cloning only to have it go nowhere? The show plays Miles’ up-and-down success at his job like a big deal, but abandons his real dream of writing a play early on even though the best asset to having two versions of Miles is that now one is free to write his play.
Pro–Paul Rudd is good. Two Paul Rudds is better.
Rudd’s performance reminded me of Nicolas Cage’s in Adaptation, where you can easily tell which version of himself he’s being despite limited costume differences. This show is dependent on a strong performance to carry both roles and make them distinct. Rudd is interesting, funny and multi-faceted enough to give life to two versions of Miles and is convincing as both the best and worst versions of himself.
Con–The other characters are a little lacking.
We get a lot of good work from Rudd, but he’s not given a ton of support. I enjoyed his wife Kate (Aisling Bea) and the episode featuring her is a standout, but we waste guest spots by Alia Shawkat, Jon Glaser and Bridget Everett, who have nothing to do. It just doesn’t flesh out other characters besides his wife, and doesn’t give them enough motivation. The surprising cameo from a future Hall-Of-Fame athlete in the pilot is worth the price of admission, though.
Pro–It’s a quick watch.
This first season is just eight episodes, most less than 30 minutes, so it’s really easy to burn through in a night. This isn’t a big commitment and you’ll be able to tell after one or two episodes if it’s your thing or not. Good luck stopping, though. Each one ends with a cliffhanger that makes it hard to keep Netflix from autoplaying the next one.
The answer to the overall question is somewhere between a soft and solid yes. I was more excited about the show before having watched it than after, but I do hope they clone us a season two and I’d have no regrets about binging it. I’d recommend it if you’re caught up on better recent shows like HBO’s Succession and Righteous Gemstones, but if you told me you didn’t love it I wouldn’t argue with you either. It is worth a binge and, ultimately, that makes for a successful Netflix original.