1 of 27 CBS
How I Met Your Mother Loses a Father (Jan. 3)
As Marshall tries to reach his father, Marvin Sr., to share some good news on How I Met Your Mother, Lily must deliver some bad news: His dad has died from a heart attack. The signs were there — literally in clever insertions of a 50 to 1 countdown during the episode — but it's still a huge shocker, not just for us and Marshall, but for Jason Segel as well. He was unaware of the twist and improvised his line: "I'm not ready for this."
2 of 27 Bravo
Real Housewives of Atlanta's Bus Brawl (Jan. 16)
"Tardy for the Party" is supposed to be a feel-good dance tune, but the track causes some major bad blood between Kim and NeNe on what will forever be known as the bus ride from hell. What started out as heated comments about Kim's lacking vocal prowess inexplicably escalates into a physical argument over slavery (?). NeNe even climbs on top of Kim and calls her "trash" before she has to be held back. The best part? The bus driver isn't allowed to pull over because of alligators. Gators got nothing on these fierce ladies.
3 of 27 Michael Desmond/ABC via Getty Images
Modern Family Gets Caught in the Act (Jan. 19)
This is why you knock. And lock your doors. When Haley, Alex and Luke try to surprise their parents with breakfast in bed for their anniversary on Modern Family, they get way more than they bargained for as they catch Phil and Claire in the middle of what he describes as "zesty" sex. "What were they doing?" Luke asks. "Whatever it was, it looked like dad was winning."
4 of 27 Giovanni Rufino/The CW
Sealed with a Kiss (Jan. 24)
The momentous first kisses between Castle and Becket on Castle, Glee's Kurt and Blaine, and Damon and Elena on The Vampire Diaries all provided their respective shows with a major adrenaline boost, but none more so than the lip-lock between Blair and Dan on Gossip Girl. After weeks — or years, some would argue — of bubbling sexual tension, Queen Bee and Lonely Boy finally tested their "secret friendship" and kick-started one of the more exciting triangles in recent years with Chuck. Seriously, does anyone really care about the Prince?
5 of 27 Lester Cohen/WireImage.com
Lady Gaga Lays an Egg (Feb. 13)
Meat dresses are so last year. Always one to make a fashion statement, Lady Gaga arrived at the Grammy Awards inside a semi-transparent egg — don't worry, she had an oxygen tank inside — while it was paraded down the red carpet by her rubbered-out Little Monsters. She finally, um, hatched during her performance of "Born This Way" on the show. Hey, Gaga's never been one for subtlety.
6 of 27 ABC
Charlie Sheen Serves Up Tiger Blood, Crazy on the Side (Feb. 27)
There are so many things to thank Charlie Sheen for in 2011, but the highlight of the Two and a Half Men star's media blitz comes when Today's Jeff Rossen asks the soon-to-be-fired-actor how he avoids slipping back into addiction. Sheen rationally explains he has no need for Alcoholics Anonymous because "it was written for normal people, people that aren't special, people that don't have tiger blood and Adonis DNA." Uh, how do we get some? Or do we even want it?
7 of 27 NBC
Parenthood Tackles Asperger's (March 1)
"I have Asperger's?" Parenthood plays out every parent's worst nightmare when Max learns that he has the syndrome by overhearing an argument between his father and his uncle. Adam and Kristina do their best to sit down and explain what Asperger's is, but they break down when Max asks if they have it, or if his sister has it, and they have to respond no. It's heart-breaking scenes like this that make us hope NBC is collecting compensation from Kleenex.
8 of 27 HBO
The Gun Show (March 21)
Shootings capped off a number of finales, including The Mentalist (Patrick Jane popping a few in Red John) and Castle (which prompted Castle to tell a wounded Beckett that he loves her), but none was more unexpected (the aforementioned are cop shows after all) and random than Bill getting shot by his angry neighbor on the Big Love series finale. It's a poetic end for the polygamist patriarch, whose martyrdom finally unites the three sister-wives just as he's always wanted.
9 of 27 Chris Haston/NBC
The Office's Waterworks (March 24)
Things never go quite as planned for Michael Scott (much to the amusement of everyone around him), even when he proposes to longtime love Holly. He creates a pretty romantic setting with hundreds of lighted candles in the place where he fell in love with her, but then the fire alarm goes off and sprinklers douse the lovebirds. As the couple's Yoda-inspired proposal and acceptance prove, the water didn't dampen the moment as much as the bombshell Michael drops on his staff: He's moving to Colorado with Holly and leaving Dunder Mifflin. So much for having your engagement cake and eating it too.
10 of 27 Michael Becker/FOX
Another Idol Favorite Bites the Dust (April 7)
Before the start of Season 10, critics and fans were worried about the state of America's biggest talent competition post-Simon Cowell. However, Idol proves that it's still got some gas (and drama) left in its tank thanks to a) Steven Tyler's colorful vocabulary and b) the shocking exit of early favorite Pia Toscano. She leaves with class, delivering a solid performance of "I'll Stand By You" before melting into the teddy bear arms of fellow contestant Jacob Lusk and sobbing as the credits roll.
11 of 27 David Jones/AFP/Getty Images
The Royal Wedding (April 29)
Nearly 30 years after his parents tied the knot, Prince William wed Kate Middleton on April 29 at London's Westminster Abbey before celebrity guests (Posh and Becks, Elton and David) and millions watching worldwide. William wore his best Irish Guards uniform, while Kate donned an ivory gown with a lace bodice overlay by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton. But let's not forget the true breakout star of the nuptials: Pippa.
12 of 27 CNN
Osama bin Laden Is Dead (May 1)
Four months shy of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, President Barack Obama delivered the news in a rousing, late-night speech that everyone had been waiting to hear: Osama bin Laden had been killed. "His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity," Obama said. "The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it's the pursuit of prosperity for our people or the struggle for equality for all our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place."
13 of 27 FOX
Fringe's Peter Was Never There (May 6)
"Bolivia" quickly becomes, like, so 2010 in the crazy Fringe universe when Peter disappears into thin air just as he says he knows how to save both the regular universe and the alternate universe. The question instantly goes from "where did he go" to so much more when an Observer says that "he never existed." We can get behind Two and a Half Men killing off Charlie Sheen by way of a deadly train accident, but making it so Joshua Jackson never existed? What did we do to deserve that?
14 of 27 David M. Russell/CBS
The Good Wife Goes Bad (May 17)
When one door closes, another opens, in this case, to a very passionate (and long overdue) make-out session between Will and Alicia. After Alicia left her husband episodes earlier, the will-they-or-won't-they couple find time for "an exceptional moment" 15 years in the making and the woman whose life was turned upside down by her husband's indiscretions finally gets around to having some fun of her own. Presidential hotel suite? $7,800. Seeing the Good Wife go bad? Priceless.
15 of 27 FOX
Bones' Baby on Board (May 19)
Booth and Bones did it. And we didn't get to see it. But the payoff is one big bombshell in the show's sixth season finale when Bones tells Booth that she's pregnant. "You're the father," she says, as he breaks into a huge smile. Producers insist a baby was always part of the plan, but we're pretty sure Emily Deschanel's pregnancy had something to do with it too.
16 of 27 Ray Mickshaw/Fox
A House Wreck (May 23)
When House sees Cuddy hosting a dinner party with a potential new beau on the show's seventh season finale, he is understandably jealous. But instead of, you know, talking to her about it, he drives his car into the side of her house in a furious rage. "If Greg House steps foot in my hospital again, comes anywhere near me, I want him thrown in jail," a livid Cuddy tells the cops. She's so mad that she leaves for good! OK, Lisa Edelstein left the show after the finale was filmed, but how convenient was that for a feasible exit?
17 of 27 Barry Brecheisen/WireImage.com
Hard to Say Goodbye (May 25)
Daytime TV may have been hit the hardest — a world without Oprah and All My Children's Erica Kane?! — but 2011 saw many last hurrahs. Some finales seem to come too soon (Clear eyes, full hearts forever, FNL fans) and some not nearly soon enough (who were you kidding, Anthony Weiner?). But before the final credits, each show (minus Weiner's sorry excuse for a farewell press conference) shares one thing in common: poignancy. The curtain goes down on Smallville as Clark Kent takes a very important first flight, and Rescue Me's Tommy finds solace in his demons yet again — this time in the form of the ghost of Lou.
18 of 27 HBO
Heads Roll on Game of Thrones (June 12)
Things come to a head — literally — when Ned Stark is unexpectedly beheaded after he falsely confesses to treason in a deal to save himself and his daughters. We normally wouldn't support a series killing off its moral heart and soul, in Season 1 no less, but HBO's decision to stand behind the source material gave even the most hardcode fans faith in the TV adaptation. A worthy sacrifice indeed.
19 of 27 Kevin Kane/WireImage.com
Introducing MC NPH (June 12)
Neil Patrick Harris can do it all. Really. After performing his usual song-and-dance numbers on the Tony Awards, the actor closed the show by rapping a recap of the winners and major moments of the three-hour ceremony. The rap was written during the show by In the Heights writer and director Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tommy Kai, the process of which was documented in this video that shows NPH popping in during hosting breaks and effortlessly reeling off the number for the first time. Yeah, we're not sure how he's not hosting the Oscars either.
20 of 27 Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images
Law & Order for Casey Anthony and Michael Jackson (July 5)
Whether you agree with the verdict or not (for those keeping track at home, that's not guilty for Casey Anthony, guilty for Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray), the trials have become the most high-profile American legal cases in years and have captivated the public from opening remarks to the last argument. Both cases beg the question: Who needs scripted legal dramas when the real thing is just as good, if not better?
21 of 27 CNN
Anderson Cooper's Potty Mouth (Aug. 17)
Anderson Cooper couldn't hold it in either. During his "RidicuList" segment on Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper riffs on Gerard Depardieu for urinating in a plane cabin by lobbing pun after pun ("they saw an actual thespian actually thes-peeing") at him. But one pun just proved too much for the CNN anchor: "Now all I can say, they should thank their lucky stars it wasn't Depar-two," Cooper says before dissolving into a hysterical fit of giggles for nearly a minute. "Sorry, this has actually never happened to me," he tries to explain through the laughs (and tears). "You always see this sort of thing on YouTube, and you never think it could happen to you." You just have to go with the flow sometimes, right?
22 of 27 E!
Kim Kardashian + Kris Humphries = (72 Days of) 4Eva (Aug. 20)
"America's Royal Wedding" (hey, that's what all the morning news shows kept telling us) went off without a hitch before a gazillion E! cameras on Aug. 20 as Kim and Kris united — for 72 days. Kim filed for divorce on Oct. 31, shocking... no one, really. But, c'mon, dude didn't even know she was previously married.
23 of 27 ABC
Bachelor Pad Blindsiding (Sept. 12)
Manipulation, deceit and double-crossing are all part of winning any show in the Bachelor franchise, but ABC crosses the line when Michael, who won Bachelor Pad with ex-fiancé Holly, learns that she just got engaged to fellow contestant Blake on the season finale. (According to Holly, ABC wouldn't let her tell Michael before the taping.) Despite the news, a stunned Michael still decides to split the $250,000 with Holly, giving ABC a crash course in class.
24 of 27 John Shearer/WireImage.com
The Best Beauty Pageant Ever (Sept. 18)
Taking a page from a classic Chevy Chase, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman bit from the '70s, the Best Actress in a Comedy Series nominees make the Emmys infinitely more watchable as each rushed the stage as their names were called to put on a mock beauty pageant. Cue exaggerated poses, nervous laughter and a lightning-fast close-up zoom of winner Melissa McCarthy, who is crowned with a tiara and handed a bouquet of roses. Fun fact: The whole thing was engineered by nominees Amy Poehler and Martha Plimpton because they wanted to make the show a looser affair. Mission accomplished.
25 of 27 Danny Feld/CBS/Warner
Ashton Kutcher's RevealingTwo and a Half Men Debut (Sept. 19)
The CBS sitcom promised to "reveal all" on the show's Season 9 premiere and it lives up to the hype when Ashton Kutcher's character — a broken-hearted billionaire — dons his birthday suit hours after trying to commit suicide. The scene is hilarious and also instantly shows just how different the dopey Walden Schmidt is from the egotistical Charlie Harper. Bonus points to Chuck Lorre for sending off Harper in fitting fashion — a funeral where it's discovered he fell in front of a train and his body exploded "like a balloon full of meat." Sorry, Charlie!
26 of 27 AMC
Breaking Bad's Face-Off (Oct. 9)
We all knew Gus' time was wrapping up on Breaking Bad, but how would he go? In the most jaw-dropping, gruesome and spectacular way possible, that's how. After Tio Salamanca detonates a bomb in his nursing home room, Gus emerges seemingly unscathed. But a camera turn reveals that half of his face has been blown off. Defiant even in death, the meth kingpin straightens his tie one final time — just like he always had — before dropping dead. It really won't be the same without you, Gus.
27 of 27 Fox
Glee Talks About Sex (Nov. 8)
Ten years ago, simply seeing Blaine and Kurt kiss on prime-time TV would have been the stuff of major scandal, but, always eager to push boundaries, Ryan Murphy went one big step further and shows the couple decide to have sex for the first time (along with the finally stable Finchel). At first, Blaine and Rachel only want to lose their V-cards for the sake of their performances in West Side Story, but when they each finally get down to the dirty deed with their significant other, there's nothing staged about the emotion involved.