‘Bonanza’ Star Michael Landon Explained His Knack for Picking ‘Right Material,’ Long-Running Shows

by Clayton Edwards

Michael Landon was in some of the biggest shows on TV. Before he passed away in 1991, he starred in both Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. Now, that’s a resume. Bonanza was one of the longest-running shows to ever hit the airwaves. The weekly western ran for fourteen seasons. During that time, it won several awards. Fans around the world still love the series today. Years after that show ended, Landon starred in Little House. He wasn’t just the star of that show. He helped to create the series. On top of that, he wrote and directed many of the episodes. Like Bonanza, fans still love Little House after all these years.

Michael Landon seemingly had a sixth sense when it came to picking shows. Being in one classic show is a major feat. However, doing it twice is incredibly rare. A couple of years before he passed, the Bonanza star told the hosts of Regis and Kathy Lee about his knack for picking good projects.

Michael Landon on His Hit Shows

Regis kicks off the interview by talking about Michael Landon’s long-running shows. They talk about how long both Bonanza and Litte House on the Prairie ran. Then, they briefly discuss his other long-running series Highway to Heaven, which ran for five years. After that, Regis asked Landon, “Why is it that every series you’re associated with has a long run?”

“I think a lot of it has to do with, probably, picking the right material, first of all,” Michael Landon replied. He went on to say, “A great deal of it has to do with luck,” Landon continued, saying that getting the right time slot was important for the lifespan of a series.

At that point, Kathie Lee added, “You have your finger on the pulse, though, of America and what people want to see.”

Michael Landon said, “I think that has a lot to do with it. People tend to think that it’s just New York and Los Angeles and there’s a lot more to this country than that.”

Landon went on to say that studios didn’t immediately embrace most of the series that he pitched. In fact, most of his projects were hard to sell to networks. He notes that Highway to Heaven was an especially hard sell. As soon as he said he wanted to play an angel, executives rolled their eyes. The proof is in the pudding, though. Just look at the shows that he sold. Both Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven were hits that had long lifespans.