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 first batch in our weeklong countdown of 2011's best episodes:
25. " The Oprah Winfrey Show Finale," The Oprah Winfrey Show
After 25 years and 4,561 episodes, we figured that the Queen of Daytime would use her final hour on the air to lead a parade of celebrities who would sing her praises and reminisce about all the crazy times on her couch. (But that, as it turns out, was what the second- and third-to-final hours were for.) Instead, the last show was simply O, reading a prepared speech from a bare set that reflected on the many lessons she had learned and that thanked her fans. "This show is the great love of my life," she said through tears. No guests, no surprises, no makeovers (not even one person got a car!) It was simple, nostalgic, and the perfect way to end a legendary chapter.
24. "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide," Fringe
The title alone indicated that this episode would be a trip. When Olivia attempted to extricate William Bell's consciousness from hers by taking LSD, the world went topsy-turvy, and the episode switched from live-action to animation. The twisty, Inception-like hour also marked Leonard Nimoy's farewell to the series.
23. "Melissa McCarthy," Saturday Night Live
On the heels of her big Emmy win, we had high hopes for McCarthy's first hosting gig on SNL. She did not disappoint. The Mike and Molly star shimmied her way across the stage for a hilarious dance number with her Bridesmaids buddy Kristen Wiig, made brazen, unwanted sexual advances toward Jason Sudekis as Arlene, a horny office worker, and taste-tested Hidden Valley Ranch dressing in a manner that gave us the dry heaves — first from laughing so hard and then with actual nausea. (Can you Garlic Ranch Blast me now?)
22. "Game Night Gone Wild!," The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
All we're saying is that when you mix rich Beverly Hills housewives, booze, Pictionary, and a not-so-lucid Richards sister, things are bound to get interesting. It started innocently enough, as the ladies headed to Dana's house for game night — but then everyone got wasted, broken-legged Brandi accused Kim of doing crystal meth in the bathroom and Kyle came to her sister's defense by calling Brandi a trashy slut. You stay classy, Beverly Hills.
21. "Bad News," How I Met Your Mother
Mother had no shortage of shockers in 2011, but none was more surprising or poignant than when Marshall, who was trying to reach his dad to tell him good news, learned from Lily that his dad died from a heart attack. Jason Segel's quick switch from jubilation to inconsolable heartbreak was Emmy-worthy — especially when you know that he did the scene in one take.