Highway to Heaven
, spiritual predecessor
to Touched by an Angel
, ran from 1984 to 1989 on NBC, and told the story of a probationary angel named Jonathan (played by Michael Landon
, who also created the series, was executive producer, and directed most of the episodes in addition to writing several of 'em) and his human companion, a bitter, retired ex-cop named Mark (played by Victor French). They travel the country as itinerant workers, receiving assignments from an entity known as "The Boss", whom only the angel Jonathan can hear, with their mission being to deliver love, understanding, and humility to those they encounter. Typical episodes stressed moral, Christian themes; though many episodes dealt with common human failings, such as egotism, bitterness and greed; some shows addressed such topics as racism and cancer.
This series contains examples of:
- Actor Allusion: One episode featured Bob Hope as an angel who had a problem when the heavenly computer was being upgraded. When the work on it was completed at the end of the episode he said —altogether now — "Thanks for the memory."
- In the episode titled "I Was a Middle-Aged Werewolf", Jonathan appears as a wolfman to help a little boy get over his fears. One of Michael Landon's earliest roles was the titular lycanthrope in I Was a Teenage Werewolf.
- Benevolent Boss: "The Boss" is portrayed as one.
- Celebrity Paradox: In "The Squeaky Wheel", Mark points out Micheal Landon's star on the Walk of Fame to Jonathan. Puzzled at Jonathan's not knowing the actor's name he says, "You know...Little Joe...Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie..... Or, that's right, I forgot, you've been dead for 40 years."
- Drugs Are Bad:
- The opening of "For the Love of Larry," which also features a thoroughly hilarious sting operation.
- In "As Difficult As ABC," where Jonathan and Mark pretend (briefly) to be drug dealers.
- Halloween Episode: One Halloween Mark makes a deal with one of the Devil's minions to give up his soul in exchange for a sick child getting better, confident that his friend the angel can get him out of it before it is time to collect. Too bad angels and demons cancel each other out....
- MAD: Highway to Heaving.
- Mundane Utility: Sometimes Jonathan used his powers for simple things. Mark would sometimes lampshade this and call out Jonathan for showing off.
- Never Learned to Read: In "As Difficult As ABC," a basketball player has to drop out of college because he can't read.
- Our Angels Are Different: Angels look just like humans, and sometimes are dead humans as well. They do have supernatural knowledge and are implied to be able to teleport, use telekinesis, and grant wishes.
- Swapped Roles: In at least two episodes, Mark has —or think he has — the 'stuff'.
- Walking the Earth
- Woobie of the Week: Show premise.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: Jonathan and Mark reform a crooked used-car dealer in an episode called "Another Song for Christmas."
- You Look Familiar: in one episode, Pa Cartwright is an old actor who swears he saw God in the audience of his play.