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

Thursday, December 5

Young Sheldon - "A Party Invitation, Football Grapes and an Earth Chicken" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Mary gets Pastor Jeff involved when Sheldon isn’t invited to Billy’s birthday party. Also, George Sr. has “male-bonding time” with Dr. Sturgis.

The Unicorn - "No Pressure" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Wade pretends to be dating Caroline (Betsy Brandt) to avoid being set up on blind dates by Delia. Also, Ben and Michelle throw an anniversary party for themselves, but have issues with the catering.

Mom - "Tuna Florentine and a Clean Handoff" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Christy and the ladies rally around Tammy when she has trouble adjusting to early release from parole. Also, Bonnie is disappointed when her perfect birthday gift for Adam gets a lukewarm response.

Carol's Second Act - "Therapy Dogs" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
As the hospital hosts therapy dogs to help care for their patients, Carol helps Lexie when the emotional burden of being a doctor becomes too “ruff."

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 2)

Thursday, December 5

  • Sam Rockwell (F Is for Family) - Catch Sam on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Lizzy Caplan (Party Down/The Class) - Lizzy appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Rebel Wilson (Super Fun Night) - Rebel drops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Anna Faris (Mom) - Anna is a guest on a repeat of A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • John Lithgow (Trial and Error/Twenty Good Years/3rd Rock from the Sun) - John visits Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm.
  • Casey Wilson (The Hotwives/Marry Me/Happy Endings), Nico Santos (Superstore) and Chris Hardwick (Guys Like Us) - Casey, Nico and Chris are panelists on Lights Out with David Spade at 11:30pm on Comedy Central.
  • Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) - Jameela stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Lea Michele (The Mayor) - Lea appears on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings. She talks about Same Time Next Christmas on ABC's GMA 3: Strahan, Sara & Keke at 1pm.
  • Sean Hayes (Will & Grace/The Millers/Sean Saves the World) - Sean appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Iain Armitage (Young Sheldon) - Iain is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Trial and Error/Kristin) - Kristin talks about Hallmark Channel's A Christmas Love Story on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT and on Access Daily, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November/December)

Life with Lucy - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season The King of Queens - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) Fuller House - The Complete Fourth Season

10/08 - Leave it to Beaver - The Complete Series
10/08 - Life with Lucy - The Complete Series
10/15 - Mom - The Complete Sixth Season
10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 1
10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 2
11/05 - The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang - The Complete Animated Series
11/05 - Laverne & Shirley in the Army (Animated Series) - The DVD Edition
11/05 - Letterkenny - Seasons 1 & 2
11/05 - Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season (Blu-ray)
11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Series (Blu-ray Limited Edition)
11/18 - The Guest Book - Season Two
11/19 - The King of Queens - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
11/19 - The Kominsky Method - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
12/03 - The Simpsons - The Nineteenth Season
12/03 - The Simpsons - Seasons 1-20: Limited Collector's Set
12/10 - Family Guy - Season Seventeen
12/17 - Fuller House - The Complete Fourth Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

12/05 - Antenna TV's News Year's Day with NewsRadio Marathon; American Housewife Star Gets Netflix Comedy Specials
12/04 - ABC's Schooled Gets Full Sophomore Year; Pop TV Rings in the New Year with Schitt's Creek
12/03 - Special Guest Hosts on Late Late Show; A Very COZI Christmas Marathon on COZI TV
12/02 - Roseanne Coming to COZI TV in January; Comedy Central Brings Back 31 Days of Holiday Survival
12/01 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of December 2, 2019)
11/30 - SitcomsOnline Digest: A Look at the Party of Five Reboot; The Simpsons Not Ending Soon, Says Producer
11/29 - Dove Channel Brings Out Holiday Classics; CW Gets DC Universe Series with Sitcom Star
11/28 - 2019 Thanksgiving TV Marathons on TV This Holiday Weekend
11/27 - CBS Slates I Love Lucy Christmas Special on Dec. 20; Is 2020 the Year of the Rabbit?
11/26 - New Ted Danson NBC Comedy Gets Holly Hunter; Mel Brooks Gets New HBO Comedy Special
11/25 - TV One Gets Family Matters and Schedules Holiday Stunts; Disney Channel Sitcom Gets Season 3
11/24 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 25, 2019)
11/23 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Price is Right and Jeopardy Primetime Specials in the Horizon; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Coming to DVD and Blu-ray
11/22 - Fri-Yay: Rick and Morty Season 4; ABC Midseason 2020 Schedule
11/21 - Miracle Workers Returns to TBS; ABC's Summer Fun & Games Lineup Renewed for 2020
11/20 - Lifetime's Winter Ripped from the Headlines; PIX11 Holiday Lineup
11/19 - Showtime Gets Vanessa Bayer Comedy Pilot; Jeopardy! Sees Who's the GOAT on ABC Primetime
11/18 - Viacom's Comedy Central Renews The Office & Parks and Recreation; E! Gets New Jason Kennedy Series
11/17 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 18, 2019)
11/16 - SitcomsOnline Digest: One Day at a Time Season Premiere Date Set; Brooklyn Nine-Nine Renewed
11/15 - Fri-Yay: Disney+ Launches; NBC Orders 8th Season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine
11/14 - Antenna TV's Classic Christmas Collection and Christmas Through the Years; TBS Orders a Fifth Season of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
11/13 - 2019 A Very Merry MeTV Lineup; Ricky Gervais Returns to Host Golden Globe Awards
11/12 - CBS Midseason 2020 Plans Include FBI Spin-off; E! Brings Back The Soup
11/11 - NBC Midseason 2020 Schedule; The CW Announces Midseason 2020 Lineup
11/10 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 11, 2019)
11/09 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fresh Off the Boat Coming to an End; Weeds Sequel in the Works
11/08 - Fri-Yay: Thoughts on Netflix's Living with Yourself; ABC Orders More Episodes of American Housewife and Bless This Mess
11/07 - COZI TV's Thanksgiving Weekend Unexpected Guests Marathon; MeTV Salutes Veteran's Day with M*A*S*H
11/06 - Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family & Good Times on Dec. 18; NBC Orders More Superstore Episodes
11/05 - ABC 2019 Holiday Specials and Episodes; E! Sets Date for Reality Sitcom