Michael Landon had the idea for his spiritually inspired TV series Highway to Heaven while he was sitting in traffic on the way to pick up his kids. “Everyone was honking their horns and cursing,” he recalled. “I thought it would be good to do a show where people could see how much better and healthier it is to go through life being nice.”
In his decades on TV, Michael championed the underdog, paid homage to the beauty of family life and called kindness a virtue, not an affliction. He had overcome a terrible childhood and emerged believing in the goodness at the heart of every person, even if he sometimes struggled to live up to his own ideals. “He gave us the best of what he had to give, and what he had was considerable,” said stepdaughter Cheryl Landon.
Born Eugene Orowitz to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Michael grew up in southern New Jersey. “We were one of two Jewish families in a working-class town that had its share of antisemites,” said Michael, who was singled out by bullies until he discovered the power of humor. “He started becoming the class clown, and people started to hang around him,” his widow, Cindy Landon, explained. “He became very popular.”
Acceptance at school…