Friday, November 27, 2009

TV Rebels: TV Dinners - Culinary Pop Culture

It's time for the final edition of TV Rebels. We originally had special permission to publish the first 6 essays on TV shows and actors that will be featured in the upcoming book TV Rebels: 100 People and Programs That Shaped the Medium by authors Lou Orfanella and Oscar De Los Santos...and then last year we got rights to 6 additional essays (for a total of 12!), so today is number twelve, TV Dinners. The book is in the works and will be released in 2010...so stay tuned for that and look for a review of the book right here before it comes out!

So without further adieu, we bring you the final essay of TV Rebels:

TV Dinners: Culinary Pop Culture
by Lou Orfanella

The concept of freezing food for thawing and consuming later dates to at least 1923 and Clarence Birdseye who created a method of preserving foods that allowed for long term storage. It was not until the 1950s however, that the C.A. Swanson company capitalizing on a public's desire for faster meal preparation and its desire to not miss an episode of Milton Berle or Sid Caesar, invented the first TV Dinner. Varying accounts give 1953 or 1954 as the actual date of the creation of the first TV Dinner.

The original Swanson meal, in its familiar aluminum compartmentalized tray, consisted of turkey with stuffing and gravy, peas, and sweet potatoes. It sold for just under a dollar and came in a box with graphics that resembled a television set. Gerald Thomas, a Swanson executive told the popular culture website fiftiesweb.com, "After Thanksgiving, Swanson had ten refrigerated railroad cars-each containing 520,000 pounds of unsold turkeys-going back and forth across the country in refrigerated railroad box cars, because there was not enough storage in warehouses. We were challenged to come up with a way to get rid of the turkeys" ("Swanson"). Swanson thought of the single compartment trays airlines used to serve food and parlayed that into the TV Dinner concept. An original release of 5,000 dinners turned into millions in the first year. Varieties have increased and imitators have been abundant, but Swanson remains the name most often connected with the TV Dinner.

New York Daily News media writer David Hinckley reflected when the TV Dinner celebrated its fiftieth birthday. "I haven't had one in probably 40 years. It doesn't matter. My wife could serve me one for dinner tonight and I would be transported to 1959, sitting in front of the black-and-white Magnavox console, gingerly peeling the hot foil off the top of the aluminum tray. The compartment at the bottom would have several slices of turkey in gravy. Top left, mixed vegetables. Top right, mashed potatoes...the smell, texture, taste-those are as imprinted at the TV shows" (Hinckley).

Did the concept of quick meals to be eaten in front of the television weaken the family by infringing on the nightly ritual of bonding around the dinner table? Perhaps. Or perhaps the popularity of the medium itself did that. In any case, the TV Dinner, like the people and programs consumers watch while eating it, has taken its place in popular culture. Microwavable trays have replaced the metal ones and "TV" has been dropped from the product's name, but the TV Dinner remains an icon in American popular culture. "Although technology moved on, the original aluminum tray was not forgotten. In 1986 it took its place in the Smithsonian Institution, immortalized right next to Fonzie's jacket, the two most appropriate symbols of television's happy days. Hollywood followed suit in 1997 when an aluminum tray-along with handprints of Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas-was placed in the cement outside Mann's Chinese theatre alongside the marks of Lassie, Uncle Miltie, and other TV legends. In 1999, Hollywood produced a commemorative sequel, giving the tray its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame" (Dixon).

Works Cited
Dixon Lebeau, Mary. "At 50, TV Dinner is Still Cookin'" The Christian Science Monitor. 10 Nov. 2004. 8 Aug. 2007 <http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1110/p11s01-lifo.html>.
Hinckley, David. "Dinner and a Show." New York Daily News 9 March 2003: Lifeline23.
"Swanson TV Dinners." Fifties Pop History. 11 Aug. 2007 <http://www.fiftiesweb.com/pop/tv-dinner.htm>.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, October 18

The Goldbergs - "Revenge o' the Nerds" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
With the children growing up, Beverly decides to reinvent herself and quits being a substitute teacher. She decides to focus her energy on going to night school so she can eventually own her own business. Murray doesn’t like change or things costing money, so he convinces her to get a perm instead. Meanwhile, Erica struggles to balance her academic and social life in college and needs Adam’s assistance.

Speechless - "T-R-- TRAINING D-A-- DAY" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jimmy takes JJ camping to give him “the talk,” Maya trains a ragtag group of new aides, and sparks fly between Dylan and Ray’s bully.

Modern Family - "Sex, Lies & Kickball" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jay’s best friend, Shorty, is back from Costa Rica and stays at the house so they can catch up and reconnect. However, Shorty is spending more time with Gloria and seems to be avoiding Jay. Meanwhile, Alex is ready to shed her good-girl image and is going to prove to Claire that her relationship with Ben is definitely a sexual relationship.

American Housewife - "The Lice Storm" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Anna-Kat brings home a lice infestation, Katie uses it to force bonding time with Taylor. Greg attempts to bond with Oliver (and avoid lice) by camping in the backyard, but Greg becomes concerned when Oliver keeps ditching their campout to be with their new sleazy neighbor named Spencer.

You're the Worst - "A Bunch of Hornballs" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Jimmy goes out of town for a Romance/Erotica fiction convention while Gretchen throws a divorce party for Lindsay, leading to an unintended deepening of Gretchen's relationship with Boone. Meanwhile, Edgar's friend Max encourages him to overspend on party planning.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 16)

Wednesday, October 18

  • Paul Shaffer (A Year at the Top) - Paul sits in with Cleto and The Cletones on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Kaitlin Olson (The Mick/It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) - Kaitlin is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project/The Office) - Mindy appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples) - Olivia is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • James Van Der Beek (What Would Diplo Do?/Friends with Better Lives/Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - James appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/CafĂ© Americain/One Day at a Time) - Valerie visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Woody Harrelson (Cheers) and Rob Reiner (All in the Family) - Woody and Rob chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. They also talk about LBJ on the AOL Build Show at 2:30pm.
  • Jay Pharoah (White Famous) - Jay appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Laura Dern (F Is for Family/Enlightened) - Laura stops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kim Fields (The Facts of Life/Living Single) - Kim talks about A Question of Faith on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. She will also be on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Pooch Hall (The Game/Accidentally on Purpose) - Pooch guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim) - Kimberly talks about the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries original Darrow & Darrow on Steve, so check your local listings.
  • Liz Gillies (Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll/Victorious) - Liz opens up about the Dynasty reboot on the People Now at 8:30am.
  • Melissa Joan Hart (Melissa & Joey/Sabrina, the Teenage Witch/Clarissa Explains It All) - Melissa talks about her new Lifetime movie The Watcher in the Woods on NBC's Today in the 10am hour, on the AOL Build Show at 3:30pm and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • David Arquette (In Case of Emergency/Parenthood) - David is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Patrice Lovely (Love Thy Neighbor) - Patrice appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Jeff can be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 10:50am.
  • Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) - Frankie is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Mark Feuerstein (9JKL/Good Morning, Miami/Conrad Bloom/Fired Up) - Mark appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (June/July/August)

Father Knows Best - Season Six Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season Alice - The Complete Fifth Season Rhoda - Season Four Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four

06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
07/04 - Superstore - Season Two
07/18 - Father Knows Best - Season Six
07/25 - Diff'ernt Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season
07/25 - Girls - The Final (Sixth) Season (Blu-ray)
08/01 - Alice - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
08/01 - Crashing - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
08/15 - Rhoda - Season Four
08/22 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four
08/29 - Will & Grace - Season One (Universal)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest