Highway to Heaven (TV Series 1984–1989) Poster



NBC wanted a handsome young actor to play Mark Gordon, but Michael Landon insisted he would only agree to star in the series if his friend and Little House on the Prairie (1974) co-star Victor French was cast.
Victor French's final TV series. It has often been written that Michael Landon decided to end the series after French died of lung cancer. In fact, it had already been agreed in June 1988 that the series would end because of falling ratings.
In a scene in the first season episode, Hotel Of Dreams, Jonathan (Landon) criticizes Mark (Victor French) for smoking, warning him that he smoked all his life and died of lung cancer. Michael Landon was himself a heavy, up to 80-a-day, chain smoker (mostly unfiltered menthol cigarettes) and would die from advanced pancreatic cancer just seven years later at the age of just 54, within a few months of diagnosis. Victor French was also a life long heavy smoker and would die from lung cancer (also just a couple of months after diagnosis) and also at the age of 54 in 1989.
Victor French described Michael Landon as his "angel", for saving him from years of being typecast in villain roles, and letting him play a hero on television.
When Jonathan (Landon) was mortal, his name was Arthur Thompson (1917-1948). His wife was named Jane. She died in the fourth season.
Series regulars Landon, French, and James Troesh, who was a guest star on several episodes, all died at age 54, which is a fairly early and unusual age of death.
Michael Landon quit smoking in the summer of 1989 after Victor French died of lung cancer, although he continued to drink heavily.
Viewers often assumed that Michael Landon was very religious due to the Christian themes in this series. However, according to Merlin Olsen, Landon never practiced any religion as an adult.
Among Hollywood insiders, the show was known as "Jesus of Malibu".
The character Jonathan The Angel was originally introduced in the series "Little House On The Prairie". He was played by Ernest Borgnine.
Season 2 is Little House alumni-heavy including Shannen Doherty, Moses Gunn, Richard Bull and Matthew Laborteaux, among others.
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Although it was initially a big success and very important to a struggling NBC, by 1988 falling ratings led to the decision to cancel the series after the upcoming 5th season. Suspecting that if he shot a full 24 episode season, many would end up on the shelf unbroadcast, Michael Landon made a truncated fifth season of just 13 episodes. Landon's suspicions were proved correct when NBC refused to give the series a regular time slot and instead announced it would be used only as a last-minute replacement show to fill gaps in the schedule. As a result, the series was broadcast sporadically over 12 months with the final episode (clearly originally intended for Christmas 1988) not shown until August 1989. Landon's anger at NBC's treatment of the show led directly to the ending of his thirty year relationship with the broadcaster.
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David Rose, the composer of the Highway to Heaven theme was also the composer of The Stripper(1962), a song commonly played at weddings during the garter removal.
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