Highway to Heaven

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Highway to Heaven
Highway To Heaven.jpg
Genre Supernatural
Family drama
Directed by Michael Landon
Victor French
Dan Gordon
Starring Michael Landon
Victor French
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 111 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Michael Landon
Producer(s) Kent McCray
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 45–48 minutes
Production company(s) Michael Landon Productions
Distributor Genesis Entertainment
20th Television (1997–)
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Original run August 19, 1984 (1984-08-19) – August 1, 1989 (1989-08-01)

Highway to Heaven is an American television drama series which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1989. The series aired for five seasons, running a total of 111 episodes. It was shot entirely in California.

Synopsis[edit]

The series stars Michael Landon as Jonathan Smith, an angel sent down to earth "on probation", and his human companion Mark Gordon, played by Victor French, Landon's co-star from Little House on the Prairie. Jonathan and Mark are given "assignments" by "The Boss" (God) where they are required to use their humanity (and sometimes a little bit of "The Stuff") to help various troubled souls overcome their problems. These problems include families dealing with sick loved ones; "all-around losers" who are encouraged to find their self-worth; people coping with loss of family such as war widows; parsons who are struggling to lead their flocks; greedy businessmen being encouraged to use their wealth for good; charlatans who used civil rights for personal gain; and discouraging prejudice in regard to people of different ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and disabilities. While dealing sensitively with these situations, the show also uses humor, particularly between Jonathan and Mark. Their personalities often clash (Jonathan being more sensible and compassionate but naive, and Mark being more pragmatic and cynical), but they always support each other. Jonathan's mission on Earth is to do enough good in order to regain his wings and, presumably, ascend to heaven. As Jonathan and Mark develop a close relationship, Mark does not want to lose his friend, so he sometimes tries to impede Jonathan's progress.[1]

Guest stars[edit]

Guest stars Devon Odessa, Alyson Croft, and Joshua John Miller all won Young Artist Awards for their appearances. Landon's Bonanza co-star Lorne Greene appeared in a 1985 episode. Landon's Little House on the Prairie co-star Matthew Laborteaux appeared in the season one episode "The Right Thing". Moses Gunn, who also co-starred on Little House and starred on Father Murphy, appeared in the season two episode "Popcorn, Peanuts and Cracker Jacks". Barbara Stuart appeared as Carla in the 1986 two-part episode "Love and Marriage". In his last roles, Tyler McVey appeared in separate episodes in 1985 and 1986 as a minister. Don Keefer portrayed Dr. Washburn in the 1986 episode "For the Love of Larry". Anthony Zerbe played a servant of the devil in the episode "The Devil and Jonathan Smith". In season one's two-part episode, "The Thoroughbred", Helen Hunt starred as a young and expectant mother with cancer. In season three's "Code Name: Freak", a young Jeff B. Davis guest starred as a twelve-year-old child genius in college (Davis is known for his guest appearances on Whose Line is it Anyway?).

Other notable guest stars can be found at List of Highway to Heaven episodes.

Production notes[edit]

Filming locations[edit]

Filming locations included Los Angeles, Simi Valley, Stanislaus National Forest, and Tuolumne County, all in California. In addition, the pilot episode from 1984 was partially filmed along Dawn Road, south of Tucson, Arizona. The footage of Jonathan walking before being picked up by Mark was filmed in Tucson and along Soledad Canyon Road near Acton, California.

Theme song[edit]

The theme tune for Highway to Heaven was composed by David Rose.

Cancellation[edit]

In June 1988, NBC decided that season five would be the last, since the show was falling in the ratings. The show was removed from the 1988 fall schedule and used as a mid-season replacement in 1989. Michael Landon made an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in early 1989 and explained this as the reason why episodes that were originally filmed in the fall of 1988 did not air until the late spring and summer of 1989. The series finale aired on August 1, 1989. Series co-star Victor French died in June 1989 from lung cancer, but this was not the reason for the cancellation.

Syndication[edit]

The series currently airs in syndication on cable networks the GMC, NBC Nonstop, INSP - Inspiration, the digital network RTV, WHT (World Harvest Television) and Family Entertainment Television.

DVD releases[edit]

In Region 1, A&E Home Video (under license from the estate and production company of Michael Landon) released the first three seasons on DVD in 2005–06.[2][3][4] The episodes contained on these releases are the edited, syndicated versions and not the original broadcast versions. Due to poor sales, the final two seasons were never released.

On March 18, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series and plan on releasing it in its entirety.[5] They have subsequently re-released the first four seasons on DVD, with Season 1 containing original uncut episodes and Season 3 containing mostly uncut episodes.[6][7] Season 4 was released (for the very first time in Region 1) on June 3, 2014.[8] The fifth and final season will be released on September 16, 2014.[9]

In Region 2, Paramount Home Entertainment & CBS DVD have released all five seasons on DVD in France under the title "Les Routes Du Paradis". The Box Art depicts the eye of Horus. Seasons 1 to 4 have been released in Germany under the title "Ein Engel auf Erden", while in the Netherlands, the first two seasons have been released on DVD.

Revelation Films acquired the rights to the series in the UK and has released all five seasons on DVD. On November 25, 2013, they released Highway to Heaven- The Complete Collection, a 30-disc set featuring all 111 episodes of the series as well as bonus features.[10]

In Region 4, Paramount Home Entertainment & CBS DVD released the first three seasons on DVD in Australia for the first time in 2008/2009. The episodes contained on these releases are edited, syndicated versions and not the original broadcast versions. Seasons 4 and 5 were to be released on DVD on December 24, 2009 but the releases never materialized. These releases have been discontinued and are out of print.

In 2012, Madman Entertainment acquired the rights to the series and have subsequently released all five seasons on DVD. These releases, like the previous releases from Paramount, contain edited episodes not the original broadcast versions.

DVD name Ep # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 (France) Region 2 (Germany) Region 2 (UK) Region 4
Season 1 24 May 14, 2013 April 17, 2008 December 11, 2008 June 4, 2012 March 7, 2012
Season 2 24 October 1, 2013 October 9, 2008 March 5, 2009 October 29, 2012 March 7, 2012
Season 3 25 January 21, 2014 June 18, 2009 December 12, 2009 February 11, 2013 March 7, 2012
Season 4 24 June 3, 2014 June 18, 2009 March 4, 2010 July 29, 2013 October 3, 2012
Season 5 13 September 16, 2014 December 1, 2009 N/A October 7, 2013 October 2, 2013

References[edit]

External links[edit]