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See the events that made TV history

Shaun Harrison
1 of 22 Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Jan. 20

Poet Elizabeth Alexander commemorated the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president with "Praise Song for the Day," a straightforward collection of couplets that conveyed a sense of, yes, hope for the future. "In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, any thing can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, praise song for walking forward in that light," she proclaimed.
2 of 22 courtesy NBC

March 12

George Clooney and Julianna Margulies return to ER in a clever episode in which the pair harvests organs that, unbeknownst to them, save their old friend Carter's life.
3 of 22 Ray Mickshaw/Fox

March 17

Adam Lambert sings a risky, Middle Eastern-inflected cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" during American Idol's Country Week, announcing that he might not always follow the rules, but the results will always be interesting.
4 of 22 Carole Segal/Syfy

March 20

In the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, the refugees finally find a primitive planet on which to settle. In an innovative twist, it turns out their new home actually is Earth, just a centuries-old one.
5 of 22 Chris Haston/Fox

April 6

On House, Dr. Kutner (Kal Penn) commits suicide — without any apparent explanation. His sudden, senseless death sends Dr. House back to drug abuse.
6 of 22 Danny Feld/ABC

April 19

It was the worst kept secret on Wisteria Lane. Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan), one of the original quintet on Desperate Housewives, was electrocuted and died just as she discovered that her husband was planning to kill Susan.
7 of 22 Craig Blankenhorn/Fox


May 12In the season finale of J.J. Abrams' Fringe, Olivia (Anna Torv) travels to meet with Dr. William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) in an alternate universe where the World Trade Center towers are still standing.
8 of 22 Mario Perez/ABC


May 13Lost sets up a conundrum in its finale: If the castaways detonate a nuclear bomb, they'll erase the crash and land safely in Los Angeles. But they'll also leave their island-based friends to die. Did Juliet help the Oceanic 6 reset time?
9 of 22 Craig Sjodin/ABC; Randy Holmes/ABC

May 14

Just as Izzie's cancer becomes critical, the interns of Seattle Grace discover that a John Doe bus crash victim is actually George. Would Grey's Anatomy kill two of its original cast members in one fell swoop of a finale?
10 of 22 Carin Baer/Fox


May 19 Glee's fun first episode lodges itself in our brains all summer long with an infectious cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," that eventually goes gold.
11 of 22 Paul Drinkwater/NBC


June 1Conan O'Brien takes over The Tonight Show with a clever segment in which he runs across the country from New York to his new home in Los Angeles to the tune of Cheap Trick's "Surrender."
12 of 22 John Paul Filo/CBS


June 8David Letterman makes a joke about New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez impregnating Sarah Palin's daughter. He ultimately apologizes, but not before Palin accuses him of joking about statutory rape, and suggests that he preys on younger women. In October, he acknowledges that he did have consensual affairs with much younger adult female staffers.
13 of 22 Jerritt Clark/WireImage.com; James Devaney/WireImage.com


June 22Jon and Kate Gosselin make a joint announcement that they have begun legal proceedings to dissolve their 10-year marriage.
14 of 22 courtesy FX


Sept. 1On Rescue Me's Season 3 finale, when Teddy's wife, Ellie, dies in a car accident, he blames Tommy (who, like the rest of the family, is off the wagon). In his drunken grief, Teddy shoots Tommy and leaves him for dead.
15 of 22 Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com


Sept. 13Kanye West charges the stage to interrupt Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the MTV VMAs, grabs the microphone and announces that Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. Later in the show, when Beyonce accepts the award for Video of the Year, she graciously cedes her time to Swift.
16 of 22 courtesy Britain's Got Talent


Sept. 16Susan Boyle, who became an Internet sensation after her stunning performance of Les Miserables' "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain's Got Talent, performs her signature song on the season finale of the talent competition's American version.
17 of 22 courtesy AMC


Sept. 20On Mad Men, Guy MacKendrick (guest star Jamie Thomas King) arrives from London to reorganize Sterling Cooper. At an office shindig, a drunken secretary accidentally runs over his foot with a John Deere riding mower, sending a spray of bone, blood and cashmere sock into the crowd.
18 of 22 courtesy Harpo Productions


Sept. 23Mackenzie Phillips appears on The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote her new memoir, High on Arrival. The book includes the shocking claim that she was raped by her father, musician John Phillips, and that she later had a consensual sexual relationship with him.
19 of 22 Bob D'Amico/ABC


Sept. 23Among the delights of ABC's sitcom Modern Family is the revelation during the show's pilot episode that the three couples who are being profiled in mockumentary style are actually all part of the same extended family.
20 of 22 Byron Cohen/NBC


Oct. 8Jim's oafish brothers hijack the Office wedding with an actually charming YouTube tribute, in which each member of the wedding party takes turns dancing down the aisle. It wasn't Jim and Pam's dream wedding, but it was dream TV.
21 of 22 courtesy CNN


Oct. 15The world watches as a giant silver balloon floats over Colorado — purportedly with 6-year-old Falcon Heene trapped inside. An hour-and-a-half later, the balloon lands, empty. As the Heene family's story unravels, police determine that the whole event was a hoax designed to attract the attention of Hollywood, so the family could get its own reality show.
22 of 22 Harpo Productions


Nov. 20A teary Oprah Winfrey announces that the last episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show will be in 2011 — at the end of her 25th season.