Friday Night Lights
From Oprah's surprisingly low-key farewell to the year's most soul-crushing break-up on The Good Wife (Kalicia, no!), the year was packed with fantastic hours of television — pretty much all of which we watched. There were teary goodbyes (Friday Night Lights' Texas forever! Smallville's tights and flights!), tense face-offs (why can't all CIA interrogations take place on the front porch of a cabin, like on Homeland?) and of course we made room for a little Glee (because certain underdogs deserved it). Which made the list. Tune in all week for our top 25.
Here's the fifth batch in our weeklong countdown of 2011's best episodes (Catch up first with Episodes 25-21, Episodes 20-16, Episodes 15-11 and Episodes 10-6. Or browse the full list here.):
5. "Finale," Smallville
It took 10 years for Clark Kent to become Superman, but the series finale soared as the Man of Steel (in his super suit at long last!) took flight. Like a proud parent, our hearts swelled as we watched Clark realize his full potential after a decade's worth of trials, and fittingly, both of his fathers (Jor-El and an apparition of Jonathan Kent) presented him with the cape before he took off to save the world once more.
4. "Palestinian Chicken," Curb Your Enthusiasm
His appetite or his religion? His sex life or his religion? For anyone who knows Larry David, it's pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty clear which he'll choose, but that doesn't make this Season 8 episode any less entertaining to watch (even if it does make you feel a little guilty for laughing so hard). At issue: Larry's new favorite restaurant, Al Abbas, is a chicken place run by Palestinians where the walls are covered with anti-Israel posters and the hot Palestinian manager, Shara, wants Larry to, um, occupy her, like she says Israel did her country -- what to do? Throw in Larry's rampage against the acronym "LOL" and you've got the perfect portrait of comedy's best social assassin.
3. "Face Off," Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad's season's worth of twists and tension culminated in a pulsating, relentless and jaw-dropping finale that will go down as one of TV's best. For one, there's the indelible, gross and awesome image of Gus' half-disfigured face after he emerged ostensibly unharmed from a bomb blast. But the ultimate "holy crap!" came in the final, game-changing seconds when we learn that Walt had poisoned Brock -- a reveal that tested the limits of our sympathy for him and showed that he had no ethical limits anymore. Walt is indeed the one who knocks.
2. "Flu Season," Parks and Recreation
Dementia! Vomiting! Pooping! In the hands of lesser folks, hitting a cast of sitcom characters with the flu could be a prescription for some really easy, lame, tired jokes. In the hands of TV's best comedy Parks and Recreation, it's an inspired choice. What would happen if Chris' perfected human health was compromised? Can Leslie rally when she has a speech to give but the floor and the wall have switched? In sickness and in health, we love this show.
1. "Always," Friday Night Lights
As Friday Night Lights stepped into TV's white light, we held our collective breath, tears at the ready. Would we be able to say goodbye to Dillon with just one box of tissue? In the end, the once-embattled Lions overcame, winning State, and Coach Taylor, who we want to be when we grow up, finally decided that it was, in fact, Tami's turn to pursue her dreams in Philadelphia. Still, when the sun set for the final time in Dillon — and we were crying, "No, don't go!" -- Tim and Billy reminded us that it would be Texas forever for all who had watched FNL's five amazing seasons.