Although his youngest daughter Jennifer Landon and Bonanza co-star David Canary have both won multiple Emmys, Michael Landon was never nominated for an Emmy. In 1976, Landon wrote and directed an auto-biographical movie, The Loneliest Runner, which was nominated for two Emmys.
In 1959, at the age of 22, Landon began his first starring TV role as Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza, one of the first TV series to be broadcast in color. Also starring on the show were Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, and Dan Blocker. During Bonanza's sixth season (1964–1965), the show topped the Nielsen ratings and remained number one for three years.
Receiving more fan mail than any other cast member, Landon negotiated with executive producer David Dortort and NBC to write and direct some episodes. In 1962, Landon wrote his first script. In 1968, Landon directed his first episode. In 1993, TV guide listed Little Joe's September 1972 two-hour wedding episode ("Forever"), as one of TV's most memorable specials. Landon's script recalled Joe Cartwright's brother, Hoss Eric Cartwright, who was initially the story's groom, before Dan Blocker's death. During the final season, the ratings declined, and NBC canceled Bonanza in November 1972. The last episode aired on January 16, 1973.