‘Highway to Heaven’ Reboot Producer on Keeping ‘Sense of Hope’ from Original Series

by Suzanne Halliburton

When folks watched Michael Landon, and his final series Highway to Heaven, fans came away with some faith. That’s because the show enveloped you with optimism.

And in the Highway to Heaven reboot, the executive producer is hoping for the same uplifting emotions, although the stories will be told with different voices. Check that, a different angle.

“The original series had a sense of hope and starting over no matter how bad things got,” Highway to Heaven EP Rodney Ferrell told TV Insider. “And we (could use) that now.”

Lifetime is reimagining Highway to Heaven in movie-length form. The first premieres tonight. The hope is for more movies to follow. Grammy winner Jill Scott plays the Michael Landon angel role. She’s Angela Stewart, a middle school guidance counselor at a school in Boulder, Col.

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Another Star of Highway to Heaven Reboot Said He Grew Up Loving Michael Landon

Barry Watson is Angela’s human helper. In the original Highway to Heaven, Victor French played that role to Landon’s Jonathan Smith. Watson is a former 7th Heaven star who will play a middle school principal in this series. He’s the only human who knows who Angela really is.

Watson said he thought about a Highway to Heaven reboot earlier this year after seeing the show in reruns.

“Back in March,” he recalls, “I was flipping through channels, and Highway to Heaven was on,” Watson told TV Insider. “I watched an episode and told my wife, ‘The world needs this show right now. Why isn’t somebody doing a reboot?’

“So when the script came, I was on board.”

Plus, Watson said that growing up, he loved Michael Landon. “I was such a big fan,” he said.

Original Series Ran from 1984-89. It Was Landon’s Last for NBC

Landon starred in Highway to Heaven from 1984-89. And he did way more than just portray an angel in the family drama. Landon also created the show and produced it. Plus, he directed the majority of the episodes.

French also was a familiar figure to fans. He and Landon were long-time friends. And French co-starred in Landon’s Little House on the Prairie.

Highway to Heaven also was a different sort of show for Landon. It was the only one he did that took place in modern times. Landon portrayed “Little Joe” Cartwright on Bonanza. That was a western set in the 19th century. So was Little House on the Prairie, when Landon was Charles “Pa” Ingalls.

Landon died in 1991 of pancreatic cancer. He was only 54. His wife, Cindy, also is a producer on the reboot. She said of the reimagining:

“Michael truly believed in the importance of treating everyone with kindness and respect. I’m looking forward to seeing (the show) pick up from where he left off.”

In previews for the reboot, Angela tells some lost souls: “I’m an angel. I can see and do things that other people can’t do.”

She told another human: “Angels are real we come to those who are looking for a miracle … My boss has such big plans for you … try to be the light in someone’s darkness.”