As a child in the 1970s, I loved Swanson's TV Dinners although we very rarely had them. Reflecting back, I think I liked the idea more than the taste. I also recall being quite disgusted and upset when the peas and carrot would leap the foil barrier, contaminating the cobbler. Apparently there are conflicting accounts of who actually invented the TV Dinner but it proved to be a massive success for Swanson who sold ten million of them in 1954, their first full year of production. From Smithsonian:
According to the most widely accepted account, a Swanson salesman named Gerry Thomas conceived the company's frozen dinners in late 1953 when he saw that the company had 260 tons of frozen turkey left over after Thanksgiving, sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars. (The train's refrigeration worked only when the cars were moving, so Swanson had the trains travel back and forth between its Nebraska headquarters and the East Coast "until panicked executives could figure out what to do," according to Adweek.) Thomas had the idea to add other holiday staples such as cornbread stuffing and sweet potatoes, and to serve them alongside the bird in frozen, partitioned aluminum trays designed to be heated in the oven. Betty Cronin, Swanson's bacteriologist, helped the meals succeed with her research into how to heat the meat and vegetables at the same time while killing food-borne germs.
"A Brief History of the TV Dinner" (Smithsonian)
Previously: "Things I miss: The Swanson TV Dinner"