This must be how the first critics to get a look at Twin Peaks felt.
I don't know if I like "Pushing Daisies," the bizarre new series about a man with the power to resurrect - and kill - with a touch. But I either like it, or it's about the worst-written series I've ever seen.
Here's the reason for my confusion.
It's a simple idea but an intriguing one. Our hero, Ned the pie maker, discovers he has the power to bring anyone back from the dead with a single touch. The catch is that a second touch sends them back to the afterlife.
And the hook is that Ned has recently brought back to life his murdered childhood sweetheart Chuck (short for Charlotte Charles - no, it's not that brave), and of course is doomed forever to be unable to touch her again.
The writing is slightly clunky - very affected and stilted - the kind of lines that require both extraordinarily talented actors and a clear concept to pull off. The overall effect here is that the actors are only partly in on the joke, and that they are all speaking, more or less, with a single voice.
It's often an amusing voice, don't get me wrong. Less so is the very clunky narration, an attempt at the same charm so ably achieved by the just as quirky but far more stable "Arrested Development" with the overdubbed Ron "Richie" Howard.
The voice over here gets in the way as often as it adds to the action, in much the same way that the voice of Lemony Snickett the narrator becomes almost a parody of itself after a book or two. Shut up already about the meanings of words the characters don't understand!
There's also a sense that things have been done solely because the talent was available, like the casting of Kristin Chenoweth and her marvelous voice as a badly matched obsessive love of Ned's. When she has a fantasy dance-song number, all you can think is, "Yeah, saw that coming."
And because she's such a good singer, she does the whole number, instead of giving us a taste that makes more sense dramatically.
There's a lot of that in Pushing Daisies, a pre-occupation with style over substance. The writing is so intrusive it's hard to tell if you like the characters at all, although a certain amount of their charm shows through.
British Anna Friel, as Chuck, wavers between vapidity, sweetness, and clever wit. Lee Pace's Ned seems deliberately drawn as a cypher; we learn more about him through the voice overs than we could ever grasp just from his actions.
I don't know if this show has legs - I can see it traipsing gaily through a single-year arc, but unless more thought has gone into its future, the loose concept of "resurrecting baker as amateur detective" could get tired pretty soon. Especially when so much is riding on the chance of a single accidental touch.