Paul Rudd's "Living With Yourself" Is Extremely Normcore

This article contains spoilers for Netflix's "Living With Yourself."

Netflix's new series Living With Yourself has two major things going for it.

The first is Paul Rudd. The man has a charm to him and an ageless youthfulness that makes him a delight to watch even as the schlubby, nihilistic Miles, who is only distinguishable from New Miles by his messy hair and eye bags.

The other main positive is the premise, which apparently occurred to creator Timothy Greenberg in a recurring dream. In the series, Rudd plays a worn-out and downbeat man who decides to fork over $50,000 in order to undergo a mysterious operation meant to make him into a "happy" person. He visits a spa and then wakes up underground. It soon becomes clear that the procedure was actually a cloning process, and now there are two Paul Rudds—one loving and upbeat (also known as New Miles), the other as down as ever, albeit more confused.

That's about the extent of the weirdness of Living With Yourself, an impressive fact in and of itself—the show takes a complex sci-fi concept worthy of Black Mirror in its eeriness and makes it palatable, inoffensive, and simplistic. In its eight episodes, it's heavy on lackluster humor, benign upper-middle-class suburban surroundings, and cookie-cutter characters.

That's not to say that it's a bad show. At risk of shattering any residual illusions of journalistic objectivity, I admit my personal vendetta against it may come from the fact that I've been interested in personal duality and its intersections with technology for years, and I've spent a good amount of time researching and writing about it. The concept that each person contains a dark side and a light side within them is ancient and primal, and the show's plotline had all the makings of a fascinating or at least intriguing psychological journey. Also, the question of whether—if given the choice—we would eliminate our sadness and internal turmoil and allow ourselves to be replaced by happy-go-lucky clones touches on larger philosophical debates about genetic engineering, medication, artificial intelligence, and technology on the whole, questions that we'll have to face sooner rather than later.

Instead of addressing these themes, the show's creators opted for a light, almost anachronistic rom-com vibe, relying heavily on Paul Rudd's charm while asking for relatively little critical thought from the audience. The vast existential implications and science of the cloning process are sidenotes at best. Out of all the characters, I personally related most to Weinraub, the insane FDA employee running a cloning interrogation room in a spare office.

All that said, Living With Yourself has ample charm. It will certainly appeal to anyone who's ever been stuck in a repetitive rut, wondering what would happen if negative thoughts could be completely wiped out of their brain. It's careful to practice some element of social awareness, too. Though it centers on Paul Rudd, it offers its leading woman—Miles' wife Kate (Aisling Bea)—a nuanced if initially underwritten storyline, giving her some piercing clapbacks and context and refusing to allow her to be pigeonholed or idealized. Miles' relationship with Kate is probably the show's most complex aspect, for better or for worse.

Living With Yourself is also embedded with gentle critiques of toxic masculinity and other harmful tropes. The original Miles recoils when New Miles cries, and he's afraid of showing emotions and connecting to others, which is a core part of his sadness. That he has nothing else to be sad about is indicative of his class privilege (among other kinds), but it's also something that everyone can probably relate to in some way. Still, Miles' sadness is mostly expressed in doleful glares and sighs, and ultimately the show fails to actually make a piercing emotional impact in any way, either in the humorous or emotional sense. It lacks the rigor of Black Mirror, the quirky vibrance of Russian Doll, or the vulnerability of Modern Love, a show that has been criticized for its dreamy idealism but that seems deep and nuanced compared to this one. There's nothing wrong with Living With Yourself, but it's missing a spark.