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 (October/November)

Dr. Ken - Season One Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season The Lucy Show - The Complete Series The Mindy Project - Season Four

10/04 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Christmas Special (Colorized)
10/04 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #1 (Colorized)
10/11 - Dr. Ken - Season One
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Series
10/11 - Nurse Jackie - Seasons One and Two
10/11 - Weeds - Seasons One and Two
11/01 - Schitt's Creek - Seasons One and Two
11/08 - Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season
11/08 - Your Family or Mine - Season One
11/15 - Community - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Lucy Show - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Mindy Project - Season Four
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Thursday, December 8

The Big Bang Theory - "The Military Miniaturization" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Colonel Williams (Dean Norris), an Air Force representative from the Department of Material Command sits down to talk with Wolowitz.

The Great Indoors - "@Emma" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Emma quits after being turned down for a raise, Jack and Roland become the magazine’s newest and worst ever social media managers. Also, in a misguided attempt to boost business, Eddie re-brands his bar as “magic-themed.”

Mom - "Cornbread and a Cashmere Onesie" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Christy and Bonnie worry about Jill after her cry for help on the anniversary of her mother’s suicide.

Life in Pieces - "Swim Survivor Zen Talk" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When John decides to try out for “Survivor,” Tim gets jealous and attempts to undermine his audition tape. Also, Colleen confesses she can’t swim when she and Matt discuss Hawaii as a honeymoon destination; Jen pretends to get hooked on meditation so she can use the time to play cell phone games; and Heather gives Sophia the “sex” talk. “Survivor” host Jeff Probst guest stars as himself.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 5)

Thursday, December 8

  • Jennifer Aniston (Friends) - Catch Jennifer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Lola Kirke (Mozart in the Jungle) - Lola is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Anna Camp (The Mindy Project) - Anna stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Emeril Lagasse (Emeril) - Emeril guest co-hosts Rachael Ray and makes sausage-stuffed mushrooms, so check your local listings.
  • Jodie Sweetin (Fuller House/Full House) and Andrea Barber (Fuller House/Full House) - Jodie and Andrea chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. Jodie joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Judah Friedlander (30 Rock) - Judah is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Lori Loughlin (Fuller House/Full House) - Lori is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT. She also talks about what to expect from Season 2 of Fuller House on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Scott Patterson (Aliens in America) - Scott talks about Luke and Lorelai’s wedding scene from Gilmore Girls – and if he thinks the two will ever have a baby on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) - Josh is a guest on the AOL Build Show at 12pm.
  • Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage) - Emanuelle appears the AOL Build Show 3:45pm.
  • Gael Garcia Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) - Gael is a guest on Chelsea on Netflix.
  • Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Will appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.