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>.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (January/February)

I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized) The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two Hooperman - Season One 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek) Fuller House - The Complete First Season

01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One / Review
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two / Review
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
02/28 - Fuller House - The Complete First Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, March 1

The Goldbergs - "The Kara-te Kid" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Inspired by the “Karate Kid” films, Adam and the other Adam Goldberg face off in a karate match to settle once and for all a long-running feud. Barry and Adam go to Uncle Marvin for training, but the only thing they learn is how to clean an apartment. Meanwhile, when Erica and Geoff’s relationship becomes public, they realize that they aren’t the good guys.

Modern Family - "Finding Fizbo" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Cam is enraged when he receives an online video showing someone has been desecrating his beloved Fizbo costume, which sets him on a quest to restore Fizbo’s good name. Meanwhile, Phil is in for quite the surprise when he finally meets his new soon-to-be step-brother at Frank’s bachelor party. Finally, Manny’s newest play hits a little too close to home for Gloria, Claire and Haley when he enlists them to do a read through before he submits it to a young playwright festival.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - "A Cricket's Tale" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
We get to see a typical day in Cricket's world and then a possible redemption when his family intervenes. Will Cricket finally move on from the gang, finding love in the process? Will Cricket go from filthy beast to his former self, Matthew Mara?

Man Seeking Woman - "Cake" (FXX, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Josh lets Mike throw him a bachelor party and soon comes to regret it.

Schitt's Creek - "Motel Review" (Pop, 8:00PM ET/PT)
While setting up his business, David meets a new friend; Johnny defends Alexis' work; Moira deals with a difficult guest.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 27)

Wednesday, March 1

  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) - Watch Alec on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Patrick Stewart (Blunt Talk) - Patrick is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Natalie Zea (The Detour) - Natalie visits Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC. She opens up about how she and her husband Travis Schuldt balance work and parenthood – and if they will have more kids on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Pete Holmes (Crashing) - Pete appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Lauren Lapkus (Crashing/Clipped/Are You There, Chelsa?) - Lauren is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Lisa Kudrow (Friends/The Comeback) - Lisa stops by Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) - Aubrey chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jerry O'Connell (We Are Men/Carpoolers/My Secret Identity) - Jerry guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Scott Foley (The Goodwin Games/A.U.S.A./Scrubs) - Scott is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Emeril Lagasse (Emeril) - Emeril co-hosts Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Mackenzie Phillips (One Day at a Time) - Mackenzie appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT. She will also be on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Craig Robinson (The Office/Mr. Robinson) - Craig joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Patrick Stewart (Blunt Talk) - Patrick looks back on the first time he met Hugh Jackman on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Dan Bucatinsky (Marry Me/The Comeback) - Dan talks about 24: Legacy on the AOL Build Show at 5pm. He will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.