Highway to Heaven (TV Series 1984–1989) Poster



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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 television 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 season one, episode twelve, "Hotel of Dreams", Jonathan (Michael Landon) criticized 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 eighty-a-day, chain smoker (mostly unfiltered menthol cigarettes) and died from advanced pancreatic cancer just seven years later, at the age of fifty-four, within a few months of diagnosis. Victor French was also a life long heavy smoker and died from lung cancer (also just a couple of months after diagnosis) and also at the age of fifty-four 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.
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 of "Jonathan the Angel" was originally introduced on Little House on the Prairie (1974) season one, episode fourteen, "The Lord Is My Shepherd: Part 2". He was played by Ernest Borgnine.
Michael Landon, Victor French, and James Troesh, who was a guest star on several episodes, all died at the age of fifty-four, which is a fairly early and unusual age of death.
Season two was Little House on the Prairie (1974) alumni-heavy, including Shannen Doherty, Moses Gunn, Richard Bull, and Matthew Laborteaux, amongst 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 fifth season. Suspecting that if he shot a full twenty-four episode season, many would end up on the shelf unbroadcast, Michael Landon made a truncated fifth season of just thirteen episodes. Landon's suspicions were proven correct when NBC refused to give the series a regular timeslot, 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 twelve 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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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

When Jonathan (Michael Landon) was mortal, his name was Arthur Thompson (1917-1948). His wife was named Jane. She died in the fourth season.

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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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