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 2

Young Sheldon - "The Grand Chancellor and a Den of Sin" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Sheldon battles President Hagemeyer’s (Wendie Malick) mysterious boss over the university’s science requirements. Also, Mary discovers that Georgie is working at Meemaw’s illegal gambling room.

United States of Al - "Wisdom / Hikmat" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
While Al is heavily medicated following surgery on his wisdom teeth, he mistakenly insults Art, forcing Riley to choose sides. Also, Lizzie tries to broker a peace among Art, Riley and Al.

Ghosts - "Alberta's Fan" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Alberta is thrilled when a super-fan of her music visits the mansion to learn more about her. Also, Thor convinces Hetty to go on a walk with him in hopes that it will spark a special memory.

B Positive - "A Camper, A Compass and a Cannoli" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Gina brings her dog Cannoli to the retirement home where he bonds with the seniors. Also, Drew prepares for his new life driving cross country in a camper van.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 29)

Thursday, December 2

  • Nicole Byer (Loosely Exactly Nicole) - Catch Nicole on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Ana Gasteyer (American Auto/Lady Dynamite/Suburgatory) and Rachel Dratch (30 Rock) - Ana and Rachel are guests on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC. They also talk about A Clüsterfünke Christmas on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Paul Rudd (Living with Yourself/Friends/Wild Oats) - Paul appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Bill Burr (F Is for Family/Townies) - Bill is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Glenn Howerton (It's Always Suny in Philadelphia/A.P. Bio/The Mindy Project) - Glenn appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) - William appears on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm.
  • Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan) - Kathy chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Skylar Astin (Ground Floor) - Skylar is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love/Love, Inc.) - Holly will be on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Michael Keaton (Report to Murphy/Working Stiffs/All's Fair) - Michael appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Leah Remini (Kevin Can Wait/The Exes/Family Tools/The King of Queens/Fired Up) - Leah guest co-hosts The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Maya Erskine (PEN15/Casual/Betas) and Anna Konkle (PEN15) - Maya and Anna are guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm/Son of Zorn/Suburgatory) - Cheryl will be on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kal Penn (Sunnyside/Deadbeat/We Are Men) - Kal appears on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Michel Urie (Younger/Partners) - Michael is a guest on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Vanessa Lachey (Truth Be Told/Dads) - Vanessa talks about her book Life from Scratch on Access Daily, so check your local listings.


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

Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release) Mom - The Eighth and Final Season Punky Brewster (1984-88) - The Complete Series (2021 Release) I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

10/19 - Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - The Honeymooners Specials - A Christmas Carol
11/02 - Mom - The Eighth and Final Season
11/02 - Punky Brewster - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - Sex and the City - The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
11/09 - Saved by the Bell (2020) - Season One
11/09 - Younger - The Complete Series
11/16 - Kevin Can F*** Himself - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
11/23 - Dead Pixels - Seasons One and Two
11/30 - I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) (2021 Release) (Blu-ray)
12/07 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
12/07 - Rick & Morty - Season 5 (Blu-ray) (Blu-ray Limited Edition Steelbook)
12/14 - The Abbott and Costello Show - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
12/14 - Letterkenny - Season 9
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

12/01 - Live in Front of a Studio Audience Announces Cast of The Facts of Life; Disney Television Orders Marsai Martin Produced Comedy
11/30 - Antenna TV January 2022 Schedule and Q1 2022 Stunts; Chucky Gets 2nd Season on Syfy & USA
11/29 - Who's the Boss? Now on GAC Family; black-ish Farewell Season Starts Jan. 4
11/28 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 29, 2021)
11/27 - SitcomsOnline Digest: MacGruber Series Premiere Date Set; Saved by the Bell Pays Tribute to Dustin Diamond
11/26 - 2021 Antenna TV Christmas and New Year's Schedule
11/25 - 2021 Thanksgiving TV Marathons on TV This Holiday Weekend Include The Jeffersons on Starz Encore Black
11/24 - First Look at Peacock's Bel-Air; Dollface Returns Feb. 11 on Hulu
11/23 - Paramount+ Celebrates the Holidays with Sitcom Classics; HBO Max Gets in Holiday Spirit as Well with Christmas Comedy Series
11/22 - Apple TV+ Announces The Afterparty Premiere Date; SNL Closes Out 2021 with 2 New December Episodes
11/21 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 22, 2021)
11/20 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Netflix Orders Last Blockbuster Video Comedy Series; Party Down Revival Set at Starz
11/19 - Fri-Yay: Sitcom Thanksgiving Episodes to Be Thankful For; Live in Front of a Studio Audience Returns Dec. 7 with The Facts of Life and Diff'rent Strokes
11/18 - COZI TV's 2021 Unexpected Guests Thanksgiving and Christmas; How I Met Your Father Premieres January 18 on Hulu
11/17 - Freeform Announces January Schedule; Starz Releases Premiere Date for Shining Vale with Courteney Cox
11/16 - MeTV Network Loses Columbo, Adds Andy Griffith and M*A*S*H Sundays; Remembering Gavan O'Herlihy, the Original Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days
11/15 - NBC Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; And Just Like That... Premieres Dec. 9 and Airs Thursdays
11/14 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 15, 2021)
11/13 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Night Court Reboot Set for 2022-2023 Debut on NBC; The Harper House Cancelled at Paramount+
11/12 - The Newlywed Game Coming to BUZZR; Nick Renews Tyler Perry's Young Dylan for Season 3
11/11 - CBS Winter 2022 Midseason Schedule; The Wonder Years Series Premiere Grows in Multi-Platform Viewing
11/10 - HBO Max's Search Party Sets Final Season Launch on Jan. 7; The Wall Returns to Fill in on NBC
11/09 - Fox Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; The Righteous Gemstones Returns Jan. 9 on HBO
11/08 - The CW Midseason 2022 Schedule; Dolly Parton to Appear on Final Season of Grace and Frankie
11/07 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 8, 2021)
11/06 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Season 2 Premiere Date Set for The Righteous Gemstones; Complete Series of The Andy Griffith Show Headed to Blu-ray
11/05 - Fri-Yay: black-ish to Debut Final Season in January; Fox's Fantasy Island Gets Holiday Special and 2nd Season
11/04 - NBC Slates Comedy Previews in December, Including American Auto & Grand Crew; It's Always Sunny to Surpass Ozzie & Harriet for Live-Action Comedy
11/03 - 2021 Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas Schedule - The 25th Anniversary; The Simpsons in Plusaversary Special
11/02 - ABC Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; HBO Max Acquires Mr. Cooper, Martin, Jamie Foxx and More
11/01 - Ovation TV Acquires Hart to Hart; MC Lyte Sitcom Premieres on ALLBLK