Reboots are the current order of the day, but it's a tricky business to produce something that appeals to new fans but also honors the spirit of the original.
But, the odds get better when the leaders of the production team have strong links to the past.
Actor/producer Michael Landon’s legacy of providing top-quality family entertainment is alive and well, thanks in part to his sons Christopher and Michael Jr., who were executive producers of the new version of their father's hit show, Highway to Heaven (1984-1989).
In the original, Landon (who created the show and was the most frequent director), played an angel sent to earth to help people in need. At his side was a retired policeman (Victor French), who helped him carry out his assignments.
The new version, which aired last November on Lifetime, updated the show to the present and found a new lead. Jill Scott takes on the role of Angela the angel, and 7th Heaven star Barry Watson plays her sidekick, Bruce.
In an interview, Watson said, “A few months back before this all came about for me being on board, I was talking to the showrunner of 7th Heaven and just talking about kind of everything that's been going on in the world and how it just feels like the world needs something like this.
“And just before that, actually, I was flipping through channels with my wife, and Highway to Heaven came on. And I looked at her and I said, ‘How come no one’s done a reboot of this yet?’ Little did I know it was already in the works, but it just seemed like the world needs a Highway to Heaven right now.”
Watson knew the hopeful stories presented in the initial series are important in this time of upheaval.
“Everybody needs something that I think can maybe kind of like lift them up and maybe help them move beyond kind of where they're stuck in the past maybe.”
The original series left viewers with a happy feeling, something Landon was always proud of. As his angel traveled to different areas and helped new people, love, hope, and joy were what viewers took from each episode. That's also what this new show does.
“[Angela is] about listening, patience, kindness, being gentle in a world that, obviously, we're all in this thing, that it can feel very hectic and fast-paced and sometimes -- and very often, angry,” Scott explained about her character.
Landon’s legacy of family-friendly shows is what prompted this project. For Watson, he was a viewer of Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, and Highway to Heaven.
“I watched everything Michael Landon did," he said. "He always brought some sort of faith or message into it, especially with Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven.”
Let’s face it, Michael Landon was adorable. Even as he aged, he remained handsome.
“My grandmother thought Michael Landon was fine,” joked Scott with a chuckle. “She thought that that was a pretty man, and every time we watched Little House on the Prairie or we watched Highway to Heaven, she would always say the same thing - ‘Look at him, just look at him.’”
Besides his good looks and cheeky smile, Landon’s reputation for creating wholesome shows was front and center.
With that in mind, when Scott was offered the role in this reboot, she admitted to saying yes even before reading the script. With Christopher Landon as co-writer and both Landon sons as producers, she knew this was going to be a project that would live up to the Landon legacy.
Many reboots just don’t hit the mark, and when it comes to iconic shows, it is difficult to live up to the reputation of the original. It’s like a good recipe. If you change the ingredients, you change the flavor.
Lifetime kept the Landon flair and the easy-going attitude of the characters alive. And with this new series of movies, the Landon legacy lives on.