In 1984, nearly immediately after he wrapped up a decade as a writer, director, producer, and star that the 19th century-set household drama "Little residence on the Prairie," Michael Landon started one more long-running, squeaky-clean, heart-tugging collection for NBC: "Highway come Heaven." Landon produced the show and also starred as a deceased guy sent as much as Heaven and also then earlier down to planet on assignment as a tentative angel, tasked through helping civilization turn their resides around and show that somebody cares. Each week, the angel recognized by the purposely vague surname of Jonathan Smith, in addition to Mark Gordon (Victor French), one almost-broken former police officer, help somebody new and then moves follow me on America"s highways, every time getting a tiny bit closer to obtaining his wings.

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Was "Highway come Heaven" treacly, melodramatic, and also broad? Absolutely. Yet was it also the many inspirational and comforting present on network television from 1984 to 1989? correct it was. Here"s a look at the creation and affect of among the most distinct TV reflects of the otherwise glitzy and also superficial 1980s, "Highway come Heaven."


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Two different sources bring about "Highway to Heaven": a Christmas movie and also traffic. In his memoir "The Last an excellent Ride," NBC"s president of to chat Brandon Tartikoff recalled stating favorite movies with Michael Landon in the at an early stage 1980s, and Landon mentioned the 1946 standard "It"s a exorbitant Life," about an angel-in-training called Clarence (Henry Travers) that helps depression George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) find definition in life again. Tartikoff claimed he liked the movie, too. "I"m glad," Landon apparently replied, "because I"d choose to carry out something through the very same spirit, the same human being values." Landon laid out his premise: He"d play an angel working on instead of of the Christian tardy of God "who comes down each week and also changes somebody"s life, just like Clarence did for Jimmy Stewart."


In 1988, Landon said the Los Angeles Times that the spark for "Highway come Heaven" came as soon as he was sitting in his car. "I to be driving with Beverly Hills to choose up my youngsters on a Friday night, and people to be honking at each other," that said. "There is no worse place for that than Beverly Hills; i think when world have a tiny bit much more money, castle really believe that the Red Sea will part and their vehicle will go forward." That obtained Landon thinking about the mass frustration before his eyes. "If castle would simply spend the time being nice," he added, "the circulation of web traffic is going to go lot better."


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Brandon Tartikoff, as he composed in "The Last great Ride," didn"t think the show that would come to be "Highway come Heaven" would occupational in the TV landscape of the 1980s, or the multi-hyphenate Michael Landon to be picking the right task to follow a decade of "Little home on the Prairie." 


"You"re going come write, produce, direct, and also star in a series where you basically play God," that told Landon. "No pun intended, however you"re going to obtain crucified by the TV critics." Landon claimed that the no longer really cared what doubters thought due to the fact that his years of tv experience shown that viewers knew what they"d acquire out the him, and they took pleasure in it. "I know exactly how to make civilization cry," that said. "And I think that there"s one audience because that that. If you have the right to move human being in one hour of television, they"ll be ago next week because that more." 

Trusting Landon, who, through "Little residence on the Prairie" and "Bonanza" prior to that, had consistently delivered millions the viewers to NBC, Tartikoff notified a pilot script.


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After NBC chairman of entertain Brandon Tartikoff signed turn off on Michael Landon"s pitch for a show around a provisional angel, the actor-writer turn in a double-length pilot script to the network in simply one week"s time, according to Tartikoff"s memoir "The Last great Ride." The teleplay would certainly account because that two hrs of TV time, yet it was also a an initial draft v some elements still rough and needing to be functioned out, an especially the location — Landon originally wanted to offer the collection the generic title of "Jonathan Smith," ~ the assumed surname of the point of view he want to portray. Tartikoff, however, jokingly referred to as the manuscript from the laid-back southerly California denizen and also Hollywood insider "Jesus of Malibu." as soon as Landon heard that, the objected. "Landon reminded me the he was Jewish," Tartikoff wrote, bring about a brand-new nickname-meets-working location of "Moses of Malibu," ~ the Old testament figure.


The present that eventually came to be known as "Highway come Heaven" gained its actual and final location from a defunct project, a renamed remake of the 1960s roadway drama "Route 66," with i m sorry Landon"s present shared a format. Tartikoff suggested it, and also after thinking about it "for a pair of seconds," Landon accepted.


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In his publication "The Last great Ride," NBC entertainment executive, management Brandon Tartikoff referred to as "Highway come Heaven" one "idea that i personally assumed was preposterous but had no intention of derailing, at the very least not immediately." That"s all because he couldn"t really say no come the job or the man who want to do it. NBC to be contractually obligated to at least launch, in good faith, the successor to Landon"s "Little house on the Prairie," a hit because that the network because the mid-1970s.


Nevertheless, when he acquired a pack of Landon"s pilot manuscript for his brand-new show, Tartikoff and also other NBC executives discovered it "a trifle old-fashioned." ~ NBC spent $3 million creating a pilot illustration from the script, executives acquired a viewing, and also some were not impressed. "This show is so date they should have actually shot that in black-and-white," said bigwig Jeff Sagansky, according to Tartikoff. "It"s one embarrassment." the the 40 network managers who filled a screening room come watch, 25 go out. 

NBC considered writing turn off the $3 million together a loss and not airing "Highway come Heaven," however the network was obligated come put present on the wait ... Whereby it to be a substantial ratings success, beating ABC"s peak 10 hit "The loss Guy." "Highway come Heaven" thus obtained a complete season order, and in 1984-85, NBC to be the most-watched network because that the an initial time in 30 years, a success Tartikoff credits in part to the success the Landon"s series.


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Earthbound point of view Jonathan blacksmith on "Highway come Heaven" necessary a human being partner to assist him acquire to the human being who needed his aid (and perhaps required some aid himself). That character shown up as note Gordon, a former Oakland, California, police officer (that"s why he always wears one A"s cap) and brother of a retirement home manager whom Jonathan meets when he works his heavenly magic ~ above the elderly residents. Prior to long, note has determined that Jonathan is one angel, and together, they"re relocating from city to city on assignments from "The Boss" upstairs.


Victor French played the bearded and increasingly much less bitter mark Gordon on "Highway to Heaven," which marked the 3rd long-running TV show on i beg your pardon he"d co-starred v Michael Landon. Top top "Little residence on the Prairie," he play alcoholic hill man and also brawler Mr. Edwards, and also on "Bonanza," French played 4 different characters in 5 episodes. Landon and French had grown close over the years, and also the previous moved to cast his friend as mark Gordon. According to the Los Angeles Times, NBC wanted to placed a young, classically attractive, rising star in the role, not a 50-year-old character actor. Landon stand his ground and also got his way, enabling French to acquire the task he likened come "working v the male I love."


Producing a TV show, especially an hour-long drama for a broadcast network that requires roughly 20 illustration a season, is famously time- and also labor-intensive, and also that can be really stressful and lead to a bad work-life balance for cast and crew. "Highway to Heaven" was reportedly the exception to the rule. As the creator, developer, executive producer, star, and director of an ext than 80% of the episodes, Michael Landon to be unquestionably the ceo on the collection of "Highway come Heaven," and the show"s staunch assistance of the prominence of family and togetherness above all other things played out in exactly how it was made. Landon called the Los Angeles time in 1988 that producing a family-like setting on collection relaxed employee to the point where the present came in under budget and on time. "Even the man who brings our coffee reads every script," co-star Victor French added.


In the 1980s, a 16-hour day was the traditional in network television. "Highway to Heaven" crew members would certainly be home by dinnertime. Everyone on staff obtained a three-week break for the winter holidays and another three-week manufacturing shutdown in the center of the season, and any extra money in the budget plan at the end of the year was break-up up right into crew bonuses.


For a show as sweet and also positive together "Highway come Heaven," the specter of death haunted the series. The key character to be technically a dead guy named Arthur Thompson, now working together an angel v the pseudonym Jonathan Smith. Moreover, the show"s main actors all died tragically, alarmingly, and also in similar circumstances. In the Season 1 illustration "One Winged Angels," Jonathan it s okay God to do it rain inside a vehicle when Mark lamp up a cigarette, arguing that the deity is "not therefore anxious" because that the man to die and also wind up in Heaven. French to be a smoker off-screen, and also in 1989, just months after production on "Highway come Heaven" wrapped, he passed away of lung cancer at age 54, according to the Associated Press. Two years later, Landon, 54, passed away of pancreatic cancer, according to People. 


Apart from Landon and also French, James Troesh showed up in much more episodes than any kind of other actor, play the lawyer Scotty Wilson eight time in the series. According to Variety, Troesh died in 2011 at, favor Landon and French, period 54.


In may 1988, NBC announced that lineup because that the upcoming fall TV season, and also "Highway come Heaven" wasn"t ~ above it, instead shifted to midseason instead of status. One aging show, that ratings had slipped, falling the end of the height 30. As such, the show"s fifth season contained just 13 episodes, which aired an extremely sporadically and also out of stimulate — a pair in December 1988, one in march 1989, and also the rest dumped right into the little-watched summer months. The present didn"t obtain a proper finale — the critical episode, a Christmas special, aired in august 1989. Michael Landon shown in an interview on "The this evening Show" in may 1989 that the collection had finished production.


Landon, the creator and star that "Highway come Heaven," broke totally free of his 30-year connection to NBC, i beg your pardon stretched ago through "Little house on the Prairie" and also "Bonanza," and jumped to CBS for his next series, "Us." The display would have been around a wrongfully convicted male freed from prison that becomes a traveling newspaper columnist looking for inspirational stories, however only the pilot was ever before produced and also aired, owing to Landon"s fatality in 1991.


The hottest brand-new thing in television in the 2010s wasn"t brand-new at all — reboots and remakes that old shows were in demand at the huge networks, as it"s simpler to promote and also market a acquainted brand or franchise and play off of the goodwill and nostalgia that viewers 보다 it is to get human being on board v something completely new. Alongside reboots of shows like "Full House," "The X-Files," "Roseanne," and also "24" come a proposed brand-new version of "Highway come Heaven." 


According come The Hollywood Reporter, the cable channel A&E started to develop a present-day-set variation of the 1980s show about a helpful angel. The twisted was the it would have brought a more difficult edge and been a bit more gritty than its inspiration, especially under the eye of executive producer mark Wahlberg and with a pilot manuscript written by man Wirth, who"d functioned as the showrunner of the harrowing and violent "Hell top top Wheels." The brand-new "Highway come Heaven" would have starred new actors, together original actors members Michael Landon and Victor French had died years earlier. A&E ultimately passed ~ above the series.

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Less 보다 a decade after A&E attempted come bring earlier "Highway to Heaven" v a dark, 21st-century spin, another simple cable network chose to give the idea a go, an altering a couple of elements yet adhering close to the spirit of the initial show about intervening angels. In June 2021, attributed reported the Lifetime had actually ordered a brand-new "Highway to Heaven." uneven the original, this won"t it is in a weekly series at all however rather a collection of sometimes made-for-TV "event movies." 


"Highway to Heaven" 2.0 will center on brand-new characters, too. Jill Scott, primarily known as a singer, will portray a recently anointed angel called Angela, that descends to earth to help people in no hope need. Every "Highway to Heaven" angel needs a sidekick, and also instead of a grizzled ex-police officer named mark Gordon, Angela"s partner will it is in a small high principal named Bruce, that finds the end that Angela is an angel when she goes undercover together a counselor in ~ his school. Barry Watson, who played the earliest son top top the religious-themed "90s household drama "7th Heaven," has signed on come play Bruce. Scott will also help produce the movies, which are being made v the approval and assistance that Michael Landon"s estate and also surviving relatives.