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, February 25

Young Sheldon - "Crappy Frozen Ice Cream and an Organ Grinder's Monkey" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Sheldon and George Sr. dine with President Hagemeyer (Wendie Malick) and a university benefactor. Also, Georgie gives Missy some brotherly advice when Mary won’t let her go to the school dance, and Dale and June (Reba McEntire) convince Meemaw to attend their son’s wedding.

B Positive - "B Negative" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Drew and Gina start thinking about their futures after Jerry (David Anthony Higgins) gets a surprise call that he’s receiving a new kidney.

Mom - "Whip-Its and Emotionally Attuned Babies" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bonnie has success creating a line of mocktails for Adam’s bar. Also, Jill finds herself attracted to Bonnie’s therapist, Trevor (Rainn Wilson).

The Unicorn - "In Memory Of..." (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Natalie realizes that her memories of her mom are starting to fade when Michelle and Delia have a memorial to honor Wade’s wife. Also, Forrest and Ben get competitive when their kids enter a fundraising contest at school.

Call Me Kat - "First Date" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Kat deals with nerves over her first date with Oscar; Randi tries to figure out the perfect anniversary gift for Daniel.

Last Man Standing - "Grill in the Mist" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
In the wake of the pandemic, Mike and Kristin are forced to make some tough business decisions involving Outdoor Man; Jen helps Mandy get organized.

Mr. Mayor - "#Palmtreereform" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Neil's plan to save the city money on palm tree maintenance meets unexpected resistance; Tommy and Mikaela don't believe Jayden when he announces he's going to be a father.

Young Rock - "Depositions" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
With Carol's lawyer at Cloud 9 to depose the employees, Jonah tries to ease Glenn's nerves; Mateo enlists Sandra's help hiding the details of his work arrangement while Dina grows concerned about Garrett's behavior at customer service.

grown-ish - "Know Yourself" (Freeform, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Vivek has a new experience with Heidi; Aaron and Doug struggle to adjust their views on sexuality and masculinity; Nomi and her new baby, Luna, return to Cal U; Junior shows up to fight for Sky.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 22)

Thursday, February 25

  • Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Catch Steve on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Regina King (227/Leap of Faith) - Regina appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • David Spade (Rules of Engagement/8 Simple Rules/Just Shoot Me!) - David is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Jodie Foster (Paper Moon/Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice) - Jodie will be on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. She also talks about The Mauritanian on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) - Randall appears on A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Kevin James (The Crew/Kevin Can Wait/The King of Queens) - Kevin is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Soleil Moon Frye (Punky Brewster/Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) - Soleil will be on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Michael Chiklis (Daddio) - Michael talks about the crime drama series Coyote on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie) - Jane is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Nick Jonas (Jonas) - Nick talks about the new season of The Voice on E!'s Daily Pop at 11am.
  • Tia Mowry (Family Reunion/Instant Mom/The Game/Sister, Sister) - Tia talks about how she is taking charge of her health in 2021 on E!'s Daily Pop at 11am.
  • Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch/The Brady Brides) - Maureen talks about life as a Brady and how she is coping during the pandemic on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.


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

The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season The Office - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Schitt's Creek - The Complete Collection Betty White's Pet Set - The Complete Series

10/13 - The Jetsons - The Complete Series (Diamond Collection)
10/13 - Our Cartoon President - Season Two
10/23 - Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em - The Complete Collection
10/27 - The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
10/27 - Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season (WBShop.com)
11/10 - Letterkenny - Seasons 5 & 6
11/10 - The Office - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
11/10 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Collection
11/17 - Carol's Second Act - The Complete Series
11/17 - Robbie - Season 1
11/24 - Corporate - Season 1
11/26 - Man with a Plan - Season Four
12/01 - The Neighborhood - Season Two
12/15 - Avenue 5 - The Complete First Season
01/22 - Corporate - Season 2
01/22 - Corporate - Season 3
02/02 - Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - The Complete Series (2021 Retail Release)
02/23 - Betty White's Pet Set - The Complete Series

More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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02/01 - Report: Antenna TV Launching New Secondary Companion Network; Season Premiere of New Amsterdam Premieres March 2 on NBC
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01/30 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Reboots in the Works for The Wonder Years and Kate & Allie; Saturday Night Live Finally Sees Ratings Success After 46 Years
01/29 - Fri-Yay: We Need to Be More Patient with New Sitcoms; Norman Lear to Receive The Carol Burnett Award at The Golden Globe Awards
01/28 - No Foolin' New CBS Comedy Premieres April 1; Remembering the Legendary Cloris Leachman
01/27 - Modern Family Heading to Hulu and Peacock for Streaming; NBC Schedules New Drama on Mondays
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