Living With Yourself's New Frontier Of Wellness Treatments Is Oddly Tempting
In an age that’s obsessed with self-improvement, the never-ending quest to perfect human existence, what lengths would you go to to better yourself? Would you, say, allow some sketchy spa owners to kill you and create a new-and-improved clone of yourself, one that would ace every board meeting, bring the spark back into your marriage and look more like one of those clean, glossy people you see on TV? It sounds dramatic, but facials that draw blood from clients and then inject it back into their faces already exist. That we might one day resort to suicidal spa treatments for the sake of wellness, oddly, doesn’t seem like too much of a reach.
This spa treatment is, if you hadn’t already guessed, the basic premise of Paul Rudd’s new Netflix show, Living With Yourself. The trouble is when Rudd's character, Miles, gets put to sleep and then buried in a forest, he doesn’t actually die. Instead, he wakes up, claws himself out of his grave, terrified and confused, and then walks back to his house in nothing but an adult nappy. There’s some shady marketing going on at the spa, you see. They don’t really tell their clients what they’re going to do to make them feel better, just the promise of the chance to literally live their best lives is enough to get people to hand over $50,000 for the treatment. When Miles finally gets back home, his duplicate doppelgänger has already settled in, blissfully unaware that he is a clone.
And so, hilarity ensues. Kind of. The whole two people, one life schtick could be ripe for some slapstick comedic moments, but Living With Yourself likes its laughs a little drier. Most of the gags are at the original Miles’ expense, kicking a depressed, disheveled dog when it’s down, as he comes to terms with all the ways in which the new Miles is superior to him. When they come to an arrangement that lets original Miles stays at home all day while new Miles goes to churn out great ideas at work, the former relishes the chance to use his spare time to work on his screenplay. When new Miles gets frustrated with having to work all day, unable to enjoy the rewards, he knows that the best way to get his own back is to delete said screenplay and write a better version over it. Living with himself is hard, because he is his own worst enemy.
This might sound like a lot of Miles (ie a lot of Paul Rudd) and that isn’t an unfair assessment, but Living With Yourself also has a lot of Aisling Bea, who is characteristically brilliant as Miles’ wife, Kate. One minute her husband is burnt out, depressed and reluctant to go to a fertility clinic, the next he’s charming, cooking her dinner and is promising to get checked out first thing tomorrow. Then she finds out that there’s two of them. It's hard to imagine how one might act in Kate's position, but Bea nails it with her signature self-deprecating wit, which cuts through original Miles’ “woe is me” spiel and jolts him back to reality. Kate is who the two Miles(es?) are really living for and, as such, she’s why they’re fighting as well.
The endearing outcome of all this is that Miles realises that he never really wanted to improve himself in the first place. But you have to wonder, is this just because he survived to witness (and therefore resent) his better self in action? His cloned colleague, who tipped him off about the treatment, remains unaware that the original version of him is actually dead and was living his best life until new Miles came along and usurped him in the replica ranks. And when that box-fresh clone glow begins to fade, there’s nothing to stop you going back and getting the treatment again. Miles' clone won't be the new guy in the office for too long.
In this sense, Living With Yourself is about self-acceptance, but what's really intriguing about it is the question of how far we might go achieve it. A few hours after finishing the series, I turned to my partner before we went to sleep to ask if he had $60,000 to spare, and didn't know that he'd be murdered in the process, would he consider spending it on a extra perfect clone to replace himself? "Yeah, probably," he said nonchalantly. "Would you?" While smoothing down my face mask (a basic one from Boots, no human blood involved), I replied, "Obviously. Sign me up."