Michael Landon Was Disappointed He Didn’t Get This Phone Call

Michael Landon made many movies and television shows before his death in 1991. He took great pride in his work. However, the Little House on the Prairie star was deeply disappointed after an experience he says he had following the release of one of his TV movies.

Michael Landon had a tough time selling ‘Highway to Heaven’ to NBC executives

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on 'Little House on the Prairie'
Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | Bruce Birmelin/NBCU Photo Bank

Since Landon had success with Little House on the Prairie, he was able to get a meeting so he could sell the concept for Highway to Heaven. Initially, NBC executives weren’t receptive to the idea of an angel in the starring role of a television series. Landon said they were “horrified” by the story line.

Landon says the executives gave him a list of ideas for new shows. Many of the ideas had a detective theme. In the book Conversations with Michael Landon, he told author Tom Ito that the NBC decisionmakers weren’t convinced Highway to Heaven would be accepted by TV audiences. They weren’t happy with the concept of Landon being an angel. “The whole notion horrified them!” said Landon. “They said, ‘Well, you know those things don’t do well.’”

Michael Landon waited for a phone call he says he never received

Michael Landon played Charles Ingalls on 'Little House on the Prairie' from 1974 to 1983.
Michael Landon played Charles Ingalls on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ from 1974 to 1983. | NBCU Photo Bank

Landon expressed a desire to be recognized for his contributions to NBC. In Ito’s book, he recalled the time when he produced the TV movie Where Pigeons Go to Die. Landon was proud of his work, and he received two Emmy nominations. However, he said he was disappointed that no one from NBC called him to congratulate him on a job well done.

It was clear from his conversation with Ito that he was still very hurt by this, even years later. Landon put his all into the production, but he felt like he was overlooked when the movie finally aired.

Landon said he didn’t expect “pats on the back” for doing a good job, but he did expect to at least receive a phone call from someone at NBC when his TV movie aired. Landon said things at the network had become impersonal, and he claimed they were more interested in numbers than the people who produced shows for them.

“I am at the point, where, for instance, when Pigeons was on, I expect someone to call me,” said Landon. “People need to be encouraged!” he continued.

This wasn’t the first time Michael Landon reportedly didn’t receive an important phone call

Melissa Gilbert says Landon didn’t know Little House on the Prairie was cancelled. According to Gilbert’s autobiography Prairie Tale, he wasn’t aware of the show’s status until after she contacted him and asked about the cancellation. Landon did some digging around and confirmed her suspicions.  

Gilbert says Landon, who worked with NBC since 1959, was livid the next time she spoke to him. According to her, he was offended that then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff didn’t call and make him aware of the cancellation.  

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