What You Never Knew About HIGHWAY To HEAVENJesus Daily
Interestingly, the final broadcast of ‘Highway to Heaven’ is a Christmas episode, just like it was in 1984 for Landon’s previous series ‘Little House.’
After Highway to Heaven finished its original broadcast run on NBC, it went into syndication. However, after its initial rerun phase, it was not seen on U.S. stations for a long time and disappeared from the public. About fifteen years later, in the mid-2000s, it resurfaced on cable’s TVLand channel which devotes itself to playing classic television. Highway to Heaven experienced a new resurgence in popularity, which coincided with its release on DVD. Since finishing its run on TVLand, it had been picked up by the Gospel Music Channel and INSP – Inspiration. Amazon Prime also has the series to stream online.
Michael Landon died on July 1, 1991, less than two years after the broadcast of this final episode of Highway to Heaven. He had been set to do another series, a family drama called Us, for CBS. He filmed the two-hour pilot which has been shown as a telefilm on CBS and cable, but unfortunately his health prevented him from continuing with plans for another weekly show. He was 54 years old when he died of pancreatic cancer, the exact same age of Victor French who passed from lung cancer.
NBC gave Landon a 13-episode order going into season 5. The first episode of the fifth season, ‘Whose Trash Is It Anyway?’ aired in October, then NBC pre-empted the series till early December when the two-part ‘Hello and Farewell’ was broadcast. This holiday themed episode should’ve aired next, but NBC was not happy with the ratings and put the show on an extended hiatus until March. The remaining ten episodes of the series aired in the spring and summer months. That is why this Christmas episode did not air that year.
In a scene in the first season episode, Hotel Of Dreams, Jonathan (Landon) criticises 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.
The character Jonathan The Angel was originally introduced in the series “Little House On The Prairie”. He was played by Ernest Borgnine.
When Jonathan (Landon) was mortal, his name was Arthur Thompson (1917-1948).
Michael Landon quit smoking in the summer of 1989 after Victor French died of lung cancer.
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.
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.
Among Hollywood insiders, the show was known as “Jesus of Malibu”.
1. God is always with you.
2. God knows what you need before you even ask.
3. I pray you are aware of his presence in your life today.
I hope Jesus Daily is helping you to focus on Jesus today.
Please share this story if you would like to help someone else know God’s presence.
— Aaron Tabor, MD, Founder of Jesus Daily®