September 10 is National TV Dinner Day.
Who came up with the nifty idea of TV dinners, anyway? Well, several different parties lay claim to the invention. Swanson & Sons is credited with coming up with the term “TV dinner.” A popular story is that Swanson & Sons had 260 tons of unsold frozen Thanksgiving turkey on their hands one year, and one of their executives, inspired by airline meals, came up with the idea of packaging and selling the excess turkey as as part of a frozen dinner. This was in 1954. Quaker State Foods was already selling frozen dinners in aluminum trays in 1949, but Swanson was the first to enjoy widespread success with the frozen dinner concept.
In 1973, Swanson introduced its larger-portioned Hungry-Man Dinners. Below, a pre-Taxi, pre-Grease Jeff Conaway stars as a hungry man in an early commercial for the new, larger meal.
Ever since we got married, all he does is eat! Good thing I found these Hungry-Man Dinners from Swanson! Look at all that chicken! Four meaty pieces. Swanson already put the second helping in. There’s fried chicken, turkey… four Hungry-Man dinners with the second helping already in!
It’s the next best thing to your good cooking. Swanson makes it good!
- 5 things you never knew about TV dinners (AL.com)
- History of TV Dinners (howstuffworks.com)
- The History of the TV Dinner (gourmet.com)