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, August 22

The Big Bang Theory - "The Laureate Accumulation" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When competitors Pemberton (Sean Astin) and Campbell (Kal Penn) charm America on a publicity tour, Sheldon and Amy try to bring Nobel laureates Kip Thorne, George Smoot and Frances Arnold to their side. Also, Halley’s fear of the dark leads to opportunity and conflict for Howard, Bernadette and Stuart.

Young Sheldon - "A Financial Secret and Fish Sauce" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When George Sr. asks Sheldon to keep a secret from Mary, the stress of not being honest drives Sheldon to hideout at Tam’s for his first sleepover.

Baskets - "Moving On" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Martha removes her cast.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 19)

Thursday, August 22

  • Carla Gugino (Spin City/Entourage) - Catch Carla on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Adam Scott (Ghosted/Parks and Recreation/Party Down) - Adam appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Denise Richards (Blue Mountain State) - Denise is a guest on a repeat of Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • NeNe Leakes (The New Normal) - NeNe appears on a repeat of The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) - Selena stops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Bill Hader (Barry) - Bill visits LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Bradley Cooper (Kitchen Confidential) - Bradley is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Master P and Romeo (Romeo!) - Master P and Romeo are guests on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Eva Longoria (Telenovela and Isabela Moner (100 Things to Do Before High School/Growing Up Fisher) - Eva and Isabela talk about Dora and the Lost City of Gold on a repeat of ABC's Strahan & Sara at 1pm.
  • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Jim talks about American Dreamer on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Angela Kinsey (The Office/The Hotwives of Orlando/Your Family or Mine/Haters Back Off) - Angela will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.


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

The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est TV & Movie Collection Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two The Good Place - The Complete Third Season Life in Pieces - The Complete Fourth Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Six

06/04 - The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est Brady Bunch TV & Movie Collection
06/18 - Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two (Blu-ray)
07/08 - Man with a Plan - Season Two
07/09 - Broad City - Season 5
07/09 - Broad City - The Complete Series
07/09 - Life in Pieces - The Complete Fourth Season
07/09 - Speechless - The Complete Third Season
07/16 - Eight Is Enough - The Complete First Season
07/17 - The Practice (1976) - The Complete Series (WBShop.com)
07/23 - Brockmire - The Complete First Season
07/23 - What I Like About You - The Complete First Season
07/30 - The Good Place - The Complete Third Season
08/06 - Caroline in the City - The Third Season
08/06 - Caroline in the City - The Fourth Season
08/13 - I Love Lucy - Colorized Collection
08/13 - Leave it to Beaver - Seasons One and Two
08/20 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Six
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

08/22 - Dancing with the Stars Cast for Season 28; Lilly Singh Gets NBC Primetime Special
08/21 - Decades Celebrates Bob Newhart's 90th Birthday with Big Marathon; Wanda Sykes & Mike Epps Get Netflix Sitcom
08/20 - James Corden Gets Extended by CBS; Freeform's Halloween House Returns for 31 Nights of Halloween
08/19 - Silicon Valley Returns for Final Season; Netflix Gears Up for Elvis Animated Comedy
08/18 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of August 19, 2019)
08/17 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Paley Center to Honor TV Legends; NBC Developing St. Elmo's Fire TV Series
08/16 - Fri-Yay: Fall Sitcom Slate Check-In: CBS; E! Gets Reality Sitcom Meet the Frasers
08/15 - Comedy Central Gets Phoebe Robinson Series; Crank Yankers Returns for 5th Season
08/14 - Fox to Air Holiday Comedy Series; CBS and Viacom to Combine
08/13 - The Flintstones Coming to MeTV in Fall 2019; Lifetime Tackles The College Admissions Scandal
08/12 - Freeform Celebrates 30 Days of Disney in September; A-List Stars Visit Fox's Animation Domination This Fall
08/11 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of August 12, 2019)
08/10 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Emmy Awards to Go Without Host; New Caroline in the City DVDs Arrive
08/09 - Fri-Yay: Pop TV: The Next Home for Great Sitcoms?; The Tonight Show Gets 5 Sunday Specials and Premiere Week Live Episodes
08/08 - Archie Bunker's Place 40th Anniversary Marathon on Antenna TV; Mariah Carey to Sing mixed-ish Theme Song
08/07 - FX Orders Atlanta Season 4; Netflix to Turn The Baby-Sitters Club Into Series
08/06 - ABC to Air 2 More Live in Front of a Studio Audience Specials; The Goldbergs Head to Disneyland
08/05 - CW Seed Gets Schitt's Creek Streaming Rights; Adam Scott to Host ABC Comedic Game Show
08/04 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of August 5, 2019)
08/03 - SitcomsOnline Digest: HBO Max Acquires BBC Library; Loretta Devine to Recur on black-ish
08/02 - FX's Baskets to End After This Season; GSN's Catch 21 Returns with Dancing with the Stars Duo Reunion
08/01 - Ovation Airs Classic Episodes of Actors Studio; FX Orders Limited Series Starring Kate Mara and Nick Robinson
07/31 - Netflix Goes Big with New Sitcom; CW Seed Expands to 24/7 Linear Channel
07/30 - A Very Brady Renovation Premieres Sept. 9 on HGTV; Trinkets Gets Conclusion Season in 2020 on Netflix
07/29 - Hulu Nabs Designing Women, More from TCA Tour; Exclusive: Modern Family's Ariel Winter to Guest Star on Law & Order: SVU
07/28 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of July 29, 2019)
07/27 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Brady Kids Reunite; DVDs for The Simpsons and Lucille Ball's Final Sitcom on the Way
07/26 - Fri-Yay: What Sitcoms Can We Expect on Disney+?; National Golden Girls Day on July 30, Event in Florida
07/25 - TV Land Gets Lucky 7 with Younger; The Last O.G. Enlists Keenen Ivory Wayans
07/24 - getTV Acquires Hot in Cleveland in August; Sean Hayes to Roast Alec Baldwin
07/23 - Stars from Fan-Favorite Series Reunite on It's a Wonderful Lifetime; HGTV's A Very Brady Contest
07/22 - FXX Comedy Archer Gets 11th Season; TBS Sets Date for Comedy Game Show with The Good Place Star