Deciding which Michael Landon show was more iconic may be difficult. The actor starred in three popular TV shows during his career. Many actors have their greatest hits. But Landon holds the distinction of being the only actor to star in three consecutive shows to last for five years or longer.
The actor may have added a fourth to that record had he not died from pancreatic cancer in 1991. Landon directed and starred in the 1991 television film “Us,” which was meant to launch a series of the same name. In that series, Landon would play Jeff Hayes, a man wrongly sent to prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
Audiences never got the opportunity to see how that series might have gone. But Landon left viewers with three bodies of work that remain popular even today. While he never had much of a film career, Landon became one of television’s leading men. Through his characters, he became a sex symbol, a role model, and a father figure all in one. For almost three decades, he remained a staple on people’s TV screens.
Michael Landon and His Three Shows
Landon first captured viewers’ attention when he starred in the western “Bonanza” back in 1959. That show ended up being the longest of Landon’s career. He appeared as Joseph “Little Joe” Cartwright between 1959 and 1973. Landon appeared in 428 episodes of the series and also started directing as well. “Bonanza” followed the adventures and trials of the Cartwright family across the Old West. The long-running show finally came to an end after Season 14.
But Landon didn’t wait around long before landing his next hit series. In 1974, Landon appeared on “Little House on the Prairie” as Charles Ingalls. The role of the family’s patriarch pushed the actor out front and center as the star of the production. Behind the scenes, Landon also lent his hand to producing and directing several episodes of the series. The actor remained a creative force on the show throughout its production.
In 1984, Landon started his final TV series with “Highway to Heaven.” He played Jonathan Smith, an angel who returns to earth to help people in need. The actor played the role until 1989, appearing in 111 episodes of the series. “Highway to Heaven” ended after a 13-episode fifth season.
Just two years later, Landon passed away from an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. He left behind three TV series that audiences continue to enjoy.