Set in Millard Fillmore High School in Manhattan, 'Head of the Class' first went on air between 1986 and 1991. Howard Hesseman played a substitute history teacher in the Warner Bros. production show. Although he had told his intellectually gifted students, "But I’m flexible … I can teach anything. History of math, history of English, history of ship. I've also taught in some of the toughest schools in New York. I can teach history of gangs." At its peak, 'Head of the Class' attracted an audience of around 35 million, many of whom were children and teenagers. 

In 1988, 'Head of the Class' became the first American TV sitcom to film in the Soviet Union. Glasnost ("openness") meant for 12 days (between September 8 and September 20 1988), some 95 people comprised of cast, crew and their family members (Mike Tyson joined Robin Givens) departed the U.S.A and landed in the U.S.S.R to shoot a 2-part, 1-hour special episode called 'Mission to Moscow'. Co-creator Michael Elias told the 'Los Angeles Times', "Being the first to shoot an American television series here (in Russia) has meant a lot of pioneering but they (the Soviet film-making procedures) probably had to adjust more to our peculiar way of doing things than we to theirs." 

Michael Elias also told reporter Michael Parks, "Organizing the production here (in Russia) took 9 months (from January to September 1988) and a financial commitment by ABC and Warner to underwrite the $300,000 in additional costs for the 2 (thirty-minute) episodes. Total cost for the 2 (thirty-minute) episodes will be about $1.5 million." Jim Benson of 'Los Angeles Daily News' added, "ABC had intended to use the 2 'Head of the Class' episodes, which cost $750,000 each compared with $400,000 for a typical half-hour sitcom, as a 2-part season-opener beginning October 1988. But competition from the World Series on NBC may result in a week's postponement and push at least one of the episodes into the November sweeps."  

Shot on location in Red Square, the Kremlin, Gorky Park, Lenin's Mausoleum (or tomb), St. Basil's Cathedral and the Moscow Metro, Dan Schneider as computer whiz kid Dennis confessed, "It was a valuable experience. I'm not a real political person, but it really sort of confirms that our system is pretty darn good." 'The Washington Post' reported, "Permission was denied, however, for the American cameras to enter the Bolshoi or the Moscow Conservatory."

Dan Frischman as the mathematics whiz kid Arvid told the Associated Press, "It was important that we got to talk to the students. They're highly educated. They know more about America than we know about Russia. Their education still includes a lot of our negative aspect, such as strikes and the homeless, but they seem envious of our freedom. They said they hoped to have a people's democracy within the communist system. It was a chance to experience another culture completely different from our own. We had a chance to work with the Soviets and experience the same kind of problems they experience. I got to talk to a lot of young people, who are much more optimistic about their future than their elders." 

It was understood marine guards at the American Embassy invited the cast over for hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and soft drinks. Michael Elias made the point, "It's a really good opportunity to further the understanding between the people of our 2 countries. I found the Soviets equally interested and ignorant about many aspects of American life, and I suspect it's the same way for many Americans … Americans don't realize, for the most part, that people here (in Russia) live quite normally.

"Even in our group, which was prepared for this trip, people were amazed by the normality of life. Somehow they didn't expect to find gas stations and dry cleaners and grocery stores, and that is a measure of how stereotyped our image is of Moscow. The reactions of our own people opened our eyes and showed up how many American misconceptions there were about Russians. 

"We will be showing army officers strolling with their wives and kids in Red Square on Sunday; we will be showing a regular Moscow school; we will be showing a lot of things that are not part of the stereotype of the Soviet Union in the American mind. And we are using real Soviet actors in as many parts as we can so that people will see they are not the thugs portrayed in a lot of American films." 

Dan Schneider told Patricia Brennan of 'The Washington Post', the trip to the Soviet Union had given him "the most memorable experience - and the most indelible - for a long time to come. I wouldn't want to make a semi-yearly trip to Russia. But it was pretty startling. You wonder if all the things you've heard are true. We stayed in a huge hotel, 1000 rooms, and in the main lobby there was one old man with a dial phone for all of them. My room was a quarter mile from the elevator. They have these large, cylindrically-shaped women every hundred yards or so in the halls who check your identification." 

Of the episodes 'Mission to Moscow', Michael Elias maintained, "A lot of stereotypes died in that classroom. The Russian kids turned out to be kids, just as Russians in general have turned out to be people, just people pretty much like us. And that is something we want to show." Co-executive producer Rich Eustis remarked, "In these 2 new episodes, the kids begin to discover the real Russia, not the stereotype, and to interact more broadly. This is not at all forced – this has been our own experience in our 2 weeks of filming here (in Russia). It is all the normal American TV sitcom, though the locale has moved to Moscow. 

"On another level, however, we are saying some things, and saying them quite consciously, about the Soviet Union and about Russians by portraying them as they are, as we found them and as we think Americans should get to know them. If we can diffuse the concept of Soviet people as enemies, we may have done some good. Another thing we are going to change is the image of Russian women."

Michael Elias said the cast were shown peace slogans in the classrooms at Moscow High School No. 20, "This impressed us - that they are teaching their children about the need for world peace. I hope that it is something we can convey about the Soviet Union within the context of what is still entertainment. I am not sure how much effort we put into educating our children for peace." 

Dan Frischman made the observation, "I did some stand-up comedy at Moscow University and saw that humor is a universal language. It was good to know my act works in Moscow. An audience is necessary for me being a comedian at heart. Having a crowd to play to is half the fun. But I find the audience reacts better to Arvid if I don't go out as myself. They like to see Arvid. My stand-up is much different. I talk about Dan Frischman and my life experiences, my romantic trials and heroic deeds."

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