SERIES "Living with Yourself"
WHEN|WHERE Now streaming on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Miles (Paul Rudd) and his wife Kate (Aisling Bea) are struggling to conceive, so it's to the fertility clinic they must go. Except Miles — an ad guy in New York who is filled with self-loathing — instead takes the money set aside for treatments to a "spa" that promises him a better life. He gets a better self, all right — a cloned one. His original self is supposed to be dead (buried deep in the New Jersey woods). But Miles claws his way out of the dirt and finds his way home, to meet the New Miles, who is already there. Kate, an architect, eventually learns the truth — there are two Miles — and an eight-part rom-com ensues.
Timothy Greenberg, former executive producer of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" wrote and created Rudd's first lead role in a TV series since — anyone? guesses? — forever.
MY SAY The twin-double, doppelgänger, switched-at-birth, or switching-roles story goes back to silent films, and before that to Shakespeare. TV has availed itself as well, from "The Patty Duke Show," through to "The Twilight Zone," and "Star Trek" and "Twin Peaks" on up through "Orphan Black," along with a few hundred other shows in between.
Now that we've made the point that there's absolutely nothing original about "Living with Yourself," the next point to be made is: That's the wrong point to be made.
Is this funny? Often, and at times, very. Is the writing sharp? Razor sharp, and in fact, there's a line later on that's draws blood it's so good, but context is important to see why. Rudd is excellent, both of them. That's hardly a surprise — he always is. He so fully, antically inhabits his two selves that they become unique individuals, even though they are refractions of the same self. Best of all, the sight of Rudd in diapers cannot be unseen.
The surprise is the outstanding supporting cast, notably Irish-born comedian Bea. Some vivid cameos drift by, too, including Jerry Adler ("The Sopranos") and Bridgett Everett ("Lady Dynamite"). You have to wait for 'em, but they're worth it.
"Living with Yourself" is dark, certainly, or has a shadow of darkness upon it. That's unavoidable because this is about the search for happiness in a world that loves to confound that search. But "Living with Yourself's" larger point is that we sometimes confound that search ourselves. Lives — even outwardly happy and prosperous ones — are sometimes fraught because those people living them make them that way.
Live in the moment. Smell the roses. Love the one you're with. Love yourself. Sure, that's hackneyed advice. But not here. Here they're incontrovertible.
BOTTOM LINE Rudd exceeds the sum of his two parts here. He's terrific.