Highway to Heaven was a television series that ran from 1984-1989. Jonathan Smith (Michael Landon) is an angel on a mission from God or “the boss”. After quickly finding employment as a handyman, Smith teams up with the ex-cop Mark Gordon (Victor French) to solve problems and help people with their everyday struggles. This series has plenty of sentimentality, spirituality, nostalgia, and unintentional comedy. As a newcomer to the series, I found myself unable to look away.
Michael Landon has an undeniable charisma. I am too young to have seen Bonanza or Little House on the Prairie. However, from watching this series I found myself struck by his screen presence. The camera remains fixed on his face during the majority of scenes and audiences are drawn in. Highway to Heaven is constantly delivering a message; the show looks at the human condition and questions why we operate the way we do. The delivery can sometimes be implausible. For example, during a physical altercation, Smith begins quoting scripture to the wrong doers. This blatant attempt at focusing on religion as the message can easily turn viewers off. However, within the realm of this show, audiences are able to give it some leeway.
The unintentional comedy this show delivers comes from the setting and the dialogue. It’s entertaining to look back at what was acceptable in the 80’s. The characters have cute interactions and it’s funny to see the way a sitcom was executed 25 years ago. After this shows cancellation, this same premise was explored again in the CBS show Touched by an Angel. There is an appetite for a show that has a superior being solving the world’s problems. Highway to Heaven is an entertaining foray into the 1980’s and the first season is a great sample of that.
Highway to Heaven is presented in 1.33:1 full screen ratio. The picture looks as good as can be expected. There are plenty of pastel colors which can appear hazy. The grain is abundant as well. All things considered, it’s a serviceable image considering the quality of the initial product.
The 2.0 Dolby Digital surround mix is clear. There is not much in the way of audio effects. All that the audience can ask for is clear and present dialogue, which this box set delivers. The score is not immersive but is apparent. The audio delivers to the best of its ability and audiences won’t complain about volume levels.
Michael Landon: Memories with Laughter and Love – Family members go over fond memories of Michael. The unmediated conversation has an organic feeling but feels distinctly eighties with the aesthetic and wardrobe.
Highway to Heaven showcases a compelling actor at an interesting point in television history. The show may be formulaic and dated. However, there is something charming about it. The characters are entertaining and as a Canadian myself, it’s nice to see a popular figure such as Michael Landon pull off the Canadian tuxedo.