''Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital'' (which premieres on March 3 at 9 p.m. and will air thereafter on Wednesdays at 10 p.m.) is a saga about the strange doings at a medical facility, located (as usual) in the Maine mythscape of King's macabre imagination. It's your standard-issue, ultramodern health-care establishment, staffed with healers, quacks, and bureaucrats...except that the building itself is built on top of an older version of the hospital where some very bad medicine was once practiced.
The previous Kingdom -- accessible to the current hospital's supernaturally inclined patients and doctors -- has all the charm of a septic tank. ''Imagine the worst place you can think of,'' says Bruce Davison (''X-Men''), who plays the half-mad control freak Dr. Stegman. ''Like waking up drunk in your own vomit at the Chelsea Hotel in the '60s. That sort of place.'' Uhhh...anyway. The sets are quite evocative.
But the supernatural setting is only one example of how truly ''Stephen Kingy'' this creep show is. Mounted by the production team behind the writer's ''Rose Red'' and ''Storm of the Century,'' ''Kingdom Hospital'' is his reinvention of ''The Kingdom,'' a mid-'90s Danish TV miniseries created by director Lars von Trier (''Breaking the Waves''). While remaining true to the original's blend of drama, horror, and black comedy, King has made it his own by adding the character of Peter Rickman (played by ''Dynasty'''s Jack Coleman), an artist who is hit by a van while jogging along a road near his house and nearly dies. Familiar?
''This is Stephen's most intensely autobiographical expression of what happened to him,'' says exec producer Mark Carliner, referring to the 1999 accident that shattered King's body. ''This is coming from a very deep place. Can you imagine what someone like Stephen King sees while hovering between life and death?''
King's true-life story informs the series, but his isn't the only one. Coleman's mother died early in production, which made his scenes with a reappearing ghost named Mary (Jodelle Micah Ferland) emotionally loaded -- ''a little too real,'' he says. There's also Andrew McCarthy, whose Dr. Hook secretly lives in the hospital's basement, and is piecing together Kingdom's history. ''This is not a wasted opportunity on me. It's the best part I've had in years,'' says the ''St. Elmo's Fire'' star. ''He's a man who's lived. He's been disappointed. He understands the reality of the world and is still in the game. I'd say all that fits me.''