Kingdom Hospital

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Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital
Khospitalpic.jpg
Opening title
Format Comedy-Horror
Based on The Kingdom 
by Lars von Trier
Developed by Stephen King
Starring Andrew McCarthy
Bruce Davison
Jack Coleman
Diane Ladd
Jodelle Micah Ferland
Ed Begley, Jr.
Jamie Harrold
Sherry Miller
Allison Hossack
William Wise
Julian Richings
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13
Production
Running time 40 minutes
Production company(s) Touchstone Television
Sony Pictures Television
Hospital Productions
Mark Carliner Productions
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run March 3 – July 15, 2004 (2004-07-15)
Chronology
Related shows The Kingdom

Kingdom Hospital (sometimes known as Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital) is a thirteen-episode television series based on Lars von Trier's The Kingdom (Danish title: Riget), which was developed by horror writer Stephen King in 2004 for American television. While initially conceived as a mini-series, it was later changed into a regular television series (albeit one that only lasted one season). It was first aired on ABC on March 3 and concluded on July 15, 2004 after being put on hold during NBA playoffs.

Plot[edit]

The story tells of the fictional Kingdom Hospital located in Lewiston, Maine, built on the site of a mill that manufactured military uniforms during the American Civil War. Previously, a hospital known as the "Old Kingdom" had been built on the site, but it burned down. The current hospital is known as the "New Kingdom". The hospital's "turbulent" nature seems to reflect its ominous logo, a crimson stylized dagger, predicting what will come.

A psychic named Mrs. Druse has checked into the hospital numerous times and is taken by the staff to be a hypochondriac. She asks for the assistance of the cynical yet compassionate Dr. Hook to uncover the truth about the hospital and the mysterious spirits who haunt it — including a young girl, killed after the original fire; a sinister teenage boy; and a strange animal that follows and protects the young girl she calls Antubis, who is similar to a giant anteater, whose long snout opens up to a horrifying set of jagged teeth.

Elsewhere, Peter Rickman, a painter who is admitted to the hospital following a road accident (with severe injuries to his skull and spine) begins to discover the ghastly goings-on while he lies comatose in room 426.

Other subplots included the initiation of arrogant chief of surgery Dr. Stegman into the secret society known as the 'Keepers', and the challenged-at-every-turn flirtation between young Dr. Elmer Traff and sleep doctor Lona Massingale.

Cast[edit]

The hospital staff[edit]

  • Andrew McCarthy as Dr. Hook, the handsome surgeon who has made it his life's work to destroy incompetence among doctors.
  • Bruce Davison as Dr. Stegman, the arrogant, egotistical neurosurgeon who is on the verge of being initiated into the secret society of Kingdom Hospital, despite his numerous malpractice suits. He is given to repetitive bragging of his "great career" in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Meagen Fay as Dr. Brenda Abelson, Steg's only true friend in the hospital, an ambitious woman who would stop at nothing for what she wants.
  • Ed Begley, Jr. as Dr. Jesse James, Kingdom's Chief of Staff, and member of the 'Keepers' - the Secret Society, who spends his time initiating "Operation: Morning Air".
  • Jamie Harrold as Dr. Elmer Traff, a young surgeon whose father is an important man in the hospital.
  • Sherry Miller as Dr. Lona Massingale, the enigmatic sleep doctor, and love interest of Elmer, despite her determination not to get involved with "a child".
  • Allison Hossack as Dr. Christine Draper, Kingdom's friendliest doctor, who has a romantic interest in Doctor Hook.
  • William Wise as Dr. Louis Traff, the leader of the Keepers, and also an important doctor at Kingdom; its longest serving member.
  • Lena Georgas as Nurse Carrie von Trier, Peter's nurse, afraid of blood.
  • Brandon Bauer as Abel Lyon, an orderly, with Down Syndrome, who sneaks around Kingdom Hospital with his friend Christa, being a trickster. Both he and Christa have an uncanny knack of knowing all the hospital's goings-on, including those of the otherworld.
  • Jennifer Cunningham as Christa Mendelson, Abel's partner-in-crime, who also has Down Syndrome. Abel and Christa show a strange affinity for the hospital's mechanical workings.
  • Julian Richings as Otto, the all-purpose man of Kingdom, who regularly watches the security feeds. Otto is accompanied by Blondi, an intelligent German Shepherd dog. Blondi has on several occasions shown self-consciousness and actual thought capabilities; as an in-joke, he thinks in a German accent. Blondi's name is a reference to Adolf Hitler's German Shepherd dog, also named Blondi.
  • Del Pentecost as Bobby Druse, Mrs. Druse's son, and an orderly at the hospital.

Patients, past and present[edit]

  • Diane Ladd as Sally Druse, a professed psychic, who regularly checks into Kingdom Hospital for all sorts of complaints, and who is determined to discover the truth lurking in the hospital's depths.
  • Jack Coleman as Peter Rickman, comatose painter who is discovering the past and future of Kingdom. He has latent psychic abilities that are triggered after his near death experience and proceed to develop through the season allowing him to perceive ghosts and travel between the human and spirit world.
  • Suki Kaiser as Natalie Rickman, Peter's wife, determined not to believe in the phenomena plaguing Kingdom.
  • Jodelle Micah Ferland as Mary Jensen, the ghost of a girl murdered to cover up the arson of the mill in the 1860s; she is a symbol of death in Kingdom Hospital.
  • Kett Turton as Paul Morlock, Dr. Gottreich's young assistant, who haunts the hospital as a figure of evil.
  • Richings and Turton provide the voices of Blondi the dog and Antubis the anteater, respectively.

Recurring cast[edit]

Guest stars[edit]

Charles Martin Smith, Wayne Newton, Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica), Bruce Harwood (The Lone Gunmen), Evangeline Lilly (Lost), Tygh Runyan (The L Word), Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series), Callum Keith Rennie (Due South) Christine Willes (Dead Like Me), and William B. Davis (The X-Files) all have guest appearances.

Production[edit]

King and producer Mark Carliner discovered the source material, the five-hour Danish television movie called Riget (Kingdom in English), while searching through a video store during the making of the 1997 TV miniseries adaptation of King's novel The Shining. They tried to buy the rights to the Danish original, only to learn that Columbia Pictures had acquired them and intended to make a theatrical movie. After five years, Columbia concluded the work could not be adapted in two-hour form and sold the rights in exchange for the rights to King's novella from the 1990 book Four Past Midnight called Secret Window, Secret Garden.

This was the first time he had adapted someone else's work rather than his own from scratch. King kept most of the characters and dark humor in place, but added a new central character named Peter Rickman who was based on his own personal experience after being hit by a minivan. King described the finished product as "the thing I like best out of all the things I've done." The series is known for its tangential plots and characters who recur throughout, as King called it a "novelization for television". King committed to write the story line for the following year, should ABC decide to continue the series.[1]

While written as a mini-series, many fans wanted it to be renewed for a second season, and Stephen King himself had a storyboard written out for one. After incredibly successful ratings for the first episode, the highest rating drama debut of the year on ABC, ratings plummeted thereafter. Despite being cancelled, the series did receive Emmy Award nominations for Special Visual Effects for a Series and Main Title Design.[2]

Episodes[edit]

Series
#
Title Writer Director Original airdate Setting date
1 "Thy Kingdom Come" Stephen King Craig R. Baxley March 3, 2004 (2004-03-03) October 22, 2003

Peter Rickman is admitted to hospital and, while in surgery, begins to discover Kingdom Hospital is more than it seems; Dr. Stegman asks vacuous Chief of Staff Dr. James to help him rid the hospital of hypochondriac Mrs. Druse; and earthquakes hit Kingdom.

U.S. ratings: 14.04 million US viewers and a 9.8/14 rating/share.[3]
2 "Death's Kingdom" Stephen King Craig R. Baxley March 10, 2004 (2004-03-10) October 22, 2003

Peter's hit-and-run driver arrives at Kingdom, becoming one of the first to witness the strange events building there; Elmer attempts to attract Lona during a dinner in the morgue; and Hook schemes to keep Mrs. Druse on for observational purposes.

U.S. ratings: 8.5 million viewers and a 5.7/10 rating/share
3 "Goodbye Kiss" Stephen King Craig R. Baxley March 17, 2004 (2004-03-17) October 22, 2003

Dr. Hook becomes drawn into Mrs. Druse's plight after seeing the ghost of Mary; a prisoner and his girlfriend plan a suicide pact gone wrong when the prisoner is saved by the staff; Dr. Stegman is accused of malpractice again; and Peter is visited by the spirits of Kingdom in the form of Mary and Paul.

U.S. ratings: 7.1 million viewers and a 4.9/8 rating/share
4 "The West Side of Midnight" Stephen King Craig R. Baxley March 24, 2004 (2004-03-24) October 23, 2003

Dr. Traff's ex-wife dies on the operating table; Elmer dreams of Antubis; the deceased Lenny helps Mrs. Druse in her quest; Stegman goes crazy after finding his car defaced and decides to find the culprits; Paul uses Pedersen to get rid of Mrs. Druse. Kingdom suffers a second earthquake. Note: also known as West of Midnight; Christine Willes guest stars.

U.S. ratings: 5.4 million viewers and a 3.8/7 rating/share
5 "Hook's Kingdom" Stephen King, Richard Dooling Craig R. Baxley March 31, 2004 (2004-03-31) October 23, 2003

Paul and Antubis face off; Pedersen plots to kill his roommate; Dr. Gupta is stunned by the likeness of a dead patient to Elmer; Elmer and Lona flirt in the sleep lab; Dr. Hook shows Draper his home in the bowels of the Kingdom; Mary reaches out to Peter; Abel and Christa ask a favor of Dr. James; and the believers gather in "Hook's Kingdom".

U.S. ratings: 5.1 million viewers and a 3.5/6 rating/share
6 "The Young and the Headless" Richard Dooling Craig R. Baxley April 8, 2004 (2004-04-08) October 23, 2003

Dr. James holds a dinner to get funding for an investigative project into the earthquakes, which involves the accidental destruction of a recovering alcoholic seismologist; Steg's initiation goes ahead, while Brenda destroys documents incriminating him; Peter, Paul, Mary, Antubis and the headless victim wander the bowels of the hospital and Elmer uses a corpse to play a trick on Lona, but it goes wrong.

U.S. ratings: 3.7 million viewers and a 2.5/4 rating share
7 "Black Noise" Richard Dooling Craig R. Baxley April 15, 2004 (2004-04-15) October 24, 2003

Elmer is suspected of desecrating the corpse, while its headless body wanders the corridors below Kingdom; Hook's new patient is a self-serving attorney who finds himself sharing a room with the badly-burnt Rolf Pederson; Peter's new roommate - meanwhile - a seismologist is brought in to study the earthquakes, and his paranoid thoughts on the hospital make him the perfect partner to help Mrs. Druse and Natalie save Mary; Druse asks Bobby to help her gain access to medical records; and Dr. James holds a meeting for all staff in which he attempts to ascertain if Kingdom is haunted - an idea Steg is heavily against.

U.S. ratings: 3.5 million viewers and a 2.3/4 rating/share
8 "Heartless" Richard Dooling Craig R. Baxley April 22, 2004 (2004-04-22) October 25, 2003

Fleischer schemes to get himself moved up the transplant list, by making a deadly deal with Antubis; Natalie and Mrs. Druse discover more secrets about Mary and the Gates Mill Fire of 1869; Hook uses the missing head to gain Elmer's help in bringing down Steg; Steg's day goes from bad to worse as he begins losing his sanity; Massingale and Elmer experience a bizarre dream experience; Hook learns of the 1869 and 1939 fires on the site of Kingdom; and Draper and Mrs. Druse suffer at the hands of Steg, the former losing credit on a story in a medical journal, the latter being confined to her bed.

U.S. ratings: 3.8 million viewers and a 2.6/4 rating/share
9 "Butterfingers" Stephen King Craig R. Baxley April 29, 2004 (2004-04-29) October 26, 2003

The day of the World Series final brings excitement to everyone at Kingdom, except Steg, but a suicide attempt by disgraced former New England Robins player Earl "Error" Candleton sees tension building amongst the staff, and it is up to Peter and Mary to save Candleton from Paul, and an untimely death.

U.S. ratings: 2.6 million viewers and a 1.8/3 rating/share
10 "The Passion of Reverend Jimmy" Tabitha King, Stephen King Craig R. Baxley June 24, 2004 (2004-06-24) October 27–29, 2003

Reverend Jimmy is crucified in a back alley, and his body becomes the source of a series of miracles which profoundly affect Nurse Wright. As the miracles grow, thousands converge upon Kingdom Hospital, waiting for the anticipated resurrection of the Reverend. Elsewhere, Massingale, Havens and Otto are trapped in the morgue after an earthquake; Dr. Schwartzon predicts the future; Steg entices Brenda to destroy incriminating evidence against him, while Hook schemes to get that evidence back with Elmer's "help"; and Natalie and Mrs. Druse continue to learn more of Mary's death. Note: also known as On the Third Day.

U.S. ratings: 3.0 million viewers and a 2.0/3 rating/share.
11 "Seizure Day" Richard Dooling Craig R. Baxley July 1, 2004 (2004-07-01) October 29–31, 2003

A mounted policeman patrols near the hospital and gets knocked down by a blinding light, and is brought to the hospital where he convulses and has seizures. Dr. Hook sees a pattern of the people revolving around the hospital who experienced the same thing. Bobby Druse is sent by Sally to retrieve old hospital files about Mary, Elmer is sent by Hook to retrieve a file related to the Mona Klingerman case and Brenda is sent by Stegman to retrieve the same Klingerman document. Stegman hallucinates during an operation on a patient's brain; he sees the disease that Antubis "eats". While Steg meets with lawyers in the Klingerman case, Lona investigates Elmer's strange dreams, and Hook and Draper get closer together.

U.S. ratings: 2.6 million viewers and a 1.8/3 rating/share
12 "Shoulda Stood in Bed" Stephen King Craig R. Baxley July 8, 2004 (2004-07-08) November 1, 2003

Dr. James continues work on his "Operation: Morning Air" badges; Elmer gets his head back; Hook publicly shames Steg in the Mona Klingerman case, leading to Steg's suspension as a surgeon; and - as he rejects Brenda - she gets revenge on him; Antubis shows Peter and Mrs. Druse a possible future; Paul convinces Steg to end it all; and Peter brings everyone together to hold a séance, before it is too late.

U.S. ratings: 2.4 million viewers and a 1.6/3 rating/share
13 "Finale" Stephen King Craig R. Baxley July 15, 2004 (2004-07-15) November 1, 2003

On All Souls Day, with only hours until the destruction of Kingdom Hospital, the doctors, patients and staff of Kingdom come together to hold a séance where they learn the truth about the Gates Falls Mill fire, and Mary's death, and must make one last attempt to set things right; while an insane Steg wanders the halls searching for them, certain that they brought about his destruction.

U.S. ratings: 3.7 million viewers and a 2.5/5 rating/share

Reception[edit]

The show received mixed reviews from critics. The New York Times review argued that the "plot unfolds disjointedly and without enough suspense."[4] CNN felt the premiere was promising and the "jittery pacing and oddball sensibility" were reminiscent of Twin Peaks.[5] The USA Today review stated that the show "does have a few frightening moments, but they don't compensate for the lackluster performances, the absence of character development, humor or pacing, or the wild fluctuations in tone."[6]

Songs played during the series[edit]

Song title[7] Performed by Episode Extra info
"Worry About You" Ivy All Episodes Theme song for the series, and heard throughout episodes.
"Red Dragon Tattoo" Fountains of Wayne Thy Kingdom Come (and Others) First heard while Peter is jogging.
"I'll Be Seeing You" Frank Sinatra Thy Kingdom Come Heard when the wife receives the news of the accident
"Wee Wee Hours" Chuck Berry The West Side of Midnight Heard at the start of the episode.
"Where's Your Head At" Basement Jaxx The Young and the Headless Played while the headless body searches for his head.
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" Unknown Artist ** Butterfingers Sung by many characters including Paul. ** The song was written by Jack Norworth in 1908.
"Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" Steam Goodbye Kiss Sung while operating on suicidal prisoner.
"Gin and Juice" The Gourds Thy Kingdom Come Heard while Dr. Stegman is driving to the hospital and the people outside of the mission are taunting him while he parks
"Time Has Come Today" The Chambers Brothers Finale Sung during beginning of finale.
"I Don't Know Why I Love You" Ivy Hook's Kingdom Played while Dr. Hook and Dr. Draper are talking in Hook's bedroom.

Distribution[edit]

Broadcasters[edit]

Home video release[edit]

The entire series is now available on DVD.[8][9][10] The DVD includes four short featurettes that cover the making of the miniseries:

  • Patients and Doctors: The Cast of Kingdom Hospital is a segment running approximately fourteen minutes that takes a look at the 'whys' and 'wherefores' of the casting decisions.
  • Inside The Walls: The Making of Kingdom Hospital is a segment running a quarter of an hour that gives us a look at the thought process behind getting the actual miniseries made from its origins as Von Trier's original Danish production through King's 'reimagining' of that work.
  • Designing Kingdom Hospital: A Tour is a seven minute piece on the set design.
  • The Magic of Antubis is an eight minute look at the creation of the ant eater with thoughts from the director and the chief effects supervisor.

In addition to the four featurettes, there's also a commentary track on the first episode with King, director Craig Baxley, producer Mark Carliner and visual effects supervisor James Tichenor.[11]

References[edit]

External links[edit]