If you think your job is tough, today’s episode will leave you shocked. Baila Sebrow, producer and host of The Definitive Rap Show sat down with American TV producer Natasha Lance Rogoff to discuss her memoir, Muppets in Moscow: The Unexpected Crazy True Story of Making Sesame Street in Russia, which Rowman & Littlefield published recently. It chronicles Natasha’s experience producing a Russian version of Sesame Street in post-Soviet Union Russia.
In the process, Natasha, who is Jewish, and her colleagues faced the assassinations of their broadcast partners, a car bombing, and the takeover of the show’s production office by Russian soldiers with AK47s. The book captures the occurrences of a disagreement creating a fun, educational children’s television show against the violent backdrop of 1990s Moscow. It also relays the cultural clashes that threatened to derail Natasha’s efforts to bring the Muppets and their idealistic values to millions of children across the former Soviet empire, including Ukraine. As one of the people on Natasha’s team put it, “You are tasking us with developing this curriculum to help kids learn the skills they need for an open society, but how can we do it if we haven’t lived in an open society?”
The show is off the air now, but its legacy—the Ulitsa Sezam (Sesame Street) generation—remains. We see it in the Russians walking out of Russia because they oppose Putin’s war and do not want to fight, and we see it on the Ukrainian side—the same age cohort, fighting for their freedom.
Since its release, the book has been covered in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Vulture, and on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” among others.
Natasha Lance Rogoff is an award-winning American television producer, filmmaker, and journalist who has produced television news and documentaries in Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union for CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS. Lance Rogoff executive produced Ulitsa Sezam, the Russian adaptation of Sesame Street, between 1993 and 1997. She also produced Plaza Sesamo in Mexico. In addition to her television work, Lance Rogoff has reported on Soviet underground culture as a documentary director and magazine and newspaper writer for major international media outlets.
Today, Lance Rogoff produces content for television and digital platforms and is the CEO and founder of an ed-tech company. An associate fellow in Harvard University’s Art, Film, and Visual Studies department, she divides her time between Cambridge, MA and New York City.
Natasha talked about what she envisioned for this production before things went crazy,
and why she chose to produce a Sesame Street type of show.
Natasha described the most difficult part of this assignment, and the difficulties she faced working in Russia.
She explained why this production of a Russian Sesame Street got so dangerous, and how a backer who was going to come in with a million dollars for the show was blown up in his car.
The show concluded with Natasha’s message of what she would most like people to understand about the Russian people and their country.
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Baila Sebrow is an acclaimed journalist, inspirational international speaker, and 5TJT columnist who hosted numerous radio and Cable TV shows, including Insight/Israel. Baila is also an educator, and active on many human rights and political causes. Baila is the Founder and President of Neshoma Advocates, Inc., servicing children and families at-risk. She is also a world renowned matchmaker and relationship coach, and president of Baila Sebrow Events, LLC. She has been been featured in various publications, including The New York Times.