Picks and Pans Review: Kingdom Hospital

updated 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)
HORROR

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As someone who still hasn't recovered from Rose Red, Stephen King's monumentally tedious 2002 miniseries about a haunted Seattle mansion, I wasn't eager to plunge into this new King thing about a ghost-ridden hospital in Maine. But there are enough positive signs in the two-hour premiere (March 3 at 9 p.m.) that I'll probably take a look March 10 when the series moves to its regular time period.

King adapted Kingdom Hospital from a Danish miniseries by Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves), adding a powerfully personal touch: In the premiere, famous artist Peter Rickman (Jack Coleman) goes out for a run and is hit by a van, just as King was in 1999. The critically injured Rickman is unable to move or speak, but we hear his black-humorous thoughts in voice-over. His mental awareness makes his physical helplessness even more frightening.

But this is a Stephen King tale, so it gets much weirder. A talking, anteater-like animal appears to Rickman, along with a silent, spectral girl who may have died in a fire on the hospital site in 1869. The artist's neurosurgeon is the brazenly unconventional Dr. Hook (Andrew McCarthy), who appears to have watched too many M*A*S*H reruns, and the patient list includes a psychic (Diane Ladd) who quickly diagnoses the hospital as haunted—in case we haven't guessed by the way it shakes. If King piles on the horrors, at least we can enjoy Ed Begley Jr. as the hospital's fatuous administrator.

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