April 13, 2017 — For decades, Michael Landon was one of television’s biggest stars.
He played Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza (one of early television’s most popular series) for 14 years. A year after the show was cancelled, Landon was in another hit series, Little House on the Prairie, which ran for 9 years.
A year after that, he began starring in Highway to Heaven.
In the series, which ran for 111 episodes (from 1984 to 1989), Landon starred as a probationary angel who can only earn his permanent wings by helping people on Earth.
The series paired Landon with Victor French, his co-star on Little House on the Prairie. French played Mark Gordon, Smith’s human companion, with whom Smith goes on assignments. The two have a fond and supportive friendship, although Gordon occasionally hampers Smith’s efforts to acquire enough good deeds to enter Heaven — which would mean Gordon would lose his friend.
Each episode saw the pair tackling a problem commonly faced by humans, such as death, illness, poverty, greed, racism and despair. The charge for Smith and Gordon each week was to find a way to help the people involved learn to cope in a constructive, loving and affirming way.
In addition to appearing in all of the episodes, Landon was producer on the show, directed 94 of the episodes and wrote 22 of them.
Among the many guest stars who appeared on the programs are Lorne Greene (who played Landon’s father on Bonanza), Helen Hayes, Ronee Blakeley, Jonathan Frakes, David Faustino, Will Wheaton, Ned Beatty, Eileen Heckart, Helen Hunt, Ed Asner, Eli Wallach, Josh Brolin, Eddie Albert, Dick Van Dyke, James Earl Jones, Leslie Nielsen, Bob Hope and Matthew Perry.
Watch 111 episodes (5 seasons) of the family-friendly Highway to Heaven here.