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, September 30

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Someone" (BET, 8:00PM ET/PT)
After his divorce, Calvin decides to date again.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Something's Rotten" (BET, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jazmine gets candid with Ella about wanting to have sex for the first time.

Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "The Monster" (BET, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jeremy's online plumber training backfires on him, literally.

Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "Dark Chocolate" (BET, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Sandra tries to mislead Philip about where she's going and who with.

In The Cut - "Big Bruh" (Bounce TV, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Kenny joins an outreach program called Big Bruh, while Jay and Wade deal with a biker crew.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 28)

Wednesday, September 30

  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family) - Watch Julie on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun/Twenty Good Years/Trial & Error) - John is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Lake Bell (Bless This Mess/How to Make It in America) - Lake appears on a repeat of A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • J. B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm/The Millers/Bent/'Til Death) - J. B. is a guest on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Ilana Glazer (Broad City) - Ilana appears on Watch What Happens: Live at 10pm on Bravo.
  • Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy/American Dad!/The Cleveland Show) - Seth will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso/Son of Zorn/The Cleveland Show) - Jason appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Patricia Heaton (Carol's Second Act/The Middle/Back to You/Everybody Loves Raymond) - Patricia is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Beth Behrs (The Neighborhood/2 Broke Girls) - Beth appears on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) - Jim talks about The Boys in the Band on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Andrew Rannells (Girls/The New Normal) - Andrew talks about Netflix's The Boys in the Band on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Tia Mowry (Family Reunion/Instant Mom/The Game/Sister, Sister) - Tia will be on The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.


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

Head of the Class - The Complete First Season Modern Family - The Eleventh and Final Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Seven Will & Grace - The Revival -Season Three - The Farewell Season Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season

06/02 - Work in Progress - Season 1
06/09 - Head of the Class - The Complete First Season (WBShop.com)
06/09 - How to Be a Gentleman - The Complete Series
06/09 - Letterkenny - Seasons 3 & 4
06/09 - Modern Family - The Eleventh and Final Season
06/09 - No Activity - Season 1
06/09 - Superior Donuts - Season Two
06/23 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 10th Season
06/23 - Fresh Off the Boat - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
06/23 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Seventh Season
06/23 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Third Season (Blu-ray)
06/30 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Seven
07/07 - Will & Grace - The Revival - Season Three - The Farewell Season
07/21 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Tenth Season
07/21 - The Thundermans - Season 1 / Season 2 / Season 3 / Season 4
07/21 - The Unicorn - Season One
07/28 - The Thundermans - Season 1-4 Bundle
08/04 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Eighth Season
08/04 - The Neighborhood - Season One
08/11 - Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens - Season 1
08/11 - Final Space - The First and Second Seasons (Blu-ray)
09/01 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
09/29 - The Bob Newhart Show - The Complete Series (2020 Release)

More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

09/30 - Saved by the Bell Reboot Launching November 25; HBO Orders Weekly Talk Show with Sam Jay
09/29 - The Addams Family Coming to FETV; Netflix Developing Korean Sitcom
09/28 - 2002-2007 Sitcom George Lopez Coming to TBS; Guests Announced for black-ish Election Special
09/27 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 28, 2020)
09/26 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Peacock to Launch All 45 Seasons of Saturday Night Live; Renewal for Family Guy and Bob's Burgers
09/25 - Fri-Yay: Schitt's Creek Emmy Sweep; HBO Max Orders New Pretty Little Liars
09/24 - NBC Moves This Is Us, Connecting Premieres; Fox Orders 2 More Seasons for Bob's Burgers & Family Guy
09/23 - Schitt's Creek Heads to Syndication on Stations and Comedy Central; Apple Orders Patricia Arquette Comedy
09/22 - Decades Fall 2020 Schedule; CMT Acquires American Housewife
09/21 - Antenna TV Fall 2020 Schedule, with 2021 Teases; 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards Winners
09/20 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 21, 2020)
09/19 - SitcomsOnline Digest: CBS Prepares for More Sunday Night Movies; The Office Arrives on Blu-ray and More Head of the Class DVDs
09/18 - Fri-Yay: Viewers Discovering Cobra Kai Now on Netflix; ABC Announces Fall 2020 Drama Premiere Dates
09/17 - ABC Officially Orders Katey Sagal Series, Cancels Stumptown; SNL Goes Live All October
09/16 - CBS All Access to Rebrand as Paramount+ in 2021; Fox Says Let's Be Real About Election
09/15 - Netflix Announces Good Times Animated Comedy; More Details on Fresh Prince Reunion on HBO Max
09/14 - Disney+ Orders Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.; TBS Version of Wipeout Announces Hosts
09/13 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 14, 2020)
09/12 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fresh Prince Reunion Brings Unexpected Pair Back Together; Doogie Howser Reboot Officially Picked Up
09/11 - Fri-Yay: Sister, Sister Soars on Netflix; ABC Comedies Returning October 21 for New Seasons
09/10 - TBS Celebrates American Dad! 300th Episode with Special Night; NBC Alters Schedule Due to Possible NHL Stanley Cup Finals
09/09 - COZI TV's The Lone Ranger The Masked Man Marathon; Peacock Gets Fresh Prince Dramatic Series
09/08 - TNT Salutes 15th Anniversary of Supernatural; Alyssa Milano Says Own the Vote 2020 in Webinar Series
09/07 - TV Marathons on Labor Day 2020
09/06 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 7, 2020)
09/05 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Mom Set for New Season Without Star; Chelsea Handler Sells Half Hour Comedies to Peacock and HBO Max
09/04 - Fri-Yay: Fall Network TV Schedule Is Scarce on Sitcoms; Laff's How I Met Your Mother Labor Day Weekend Launch Marathon
09/03 - Freeform's 31 Nights of Halloween 2020 Schedule; Dancing with the Stars Season 29 Cast
09/02 - black-ish Returns with Special Episodes on Election; Shout! Factory TV and Pluto TV Launches The Carol Burnett Show Channel
09/01 - HBO Max Slates The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Special; Ayo Edebiri Replaces Jenny Slate as Missy on Big Mouth
08/31 - Home Improvement Tool Time Reunion on History Series; Bunk'd Adds to Cast
08/30 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of August 31, 2020)