The Top 10 TV Moments of 2011
Earlier this week, we began our look as the top 25 TV moments of the year. With an expanded list, we had enough room to put some of the zanier stuff that happened in 2011, but now it’s time to get what’s important. The top 10 television moments of the year. What was the most significant? What were some of the best episodes of TV this year? Read the list below to find out, and make sure to give us your own top 10 in the comments below!
Spoiler Alert: It should be noted that some of these posts contain major spoilers for the shows involved. We’ll try our best to point out what you might want to skip over, but read ahead at your own risk!
10. Entourage limps to series finale
Series: Entourage, S08E08 “The End”
Original Air Date: September 11, 2011 on HBO
BWP’s Episode Review: 2 out of 10
It’s convenient that the Entourage series finale aired on the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Because, outside of 9/11, Entourage is probably the worst thing to happen to America in the last decade. Before I get any hate mail for that, let me reiterate that Entourage is terrible. And that’s a shame, because for a few years, it was actually a pretty great show.
Outside of a completely unnecessary and gratuitous ass shot of Ari’s wife, the series finale of Entourage was pretty much just 30 minutes of all the characters smiling at each other and telling each other how amazing they are. Johnny Drama gets his job back, E and Sloan are back together, Vince decides to get married after a single date with a woman who spent more time avoiding him than actually dating him, and Ari gets over his mid-life crisis. Which does it seem like I’ve seen this episode before?
Entourage was edgy and fun because it was about friendship, characters, all set within the lavish world of Hollywood. As the series went on, the characters and the show shed any semblance of depth they had just to put out 30 minutes of television with the highest amount of cameos and gimmicks possible. We knew the show was nearing its end, and we were hoping that meant that Doug Ellin and everyone else involved would actually try and make an effort to get us to like this show again. Instead, we were treated with the most patronizing, degrading and annoying, shitty, irrelevant television possible. Good riddance Entourage. You overstayed your welcome.
9. The survivors finally find Sophia
Series: The Walking Dead, S02E07 “Pretty Much Dead Already”
Original Air Date: November 27, 2011 on AMC
BWP’s Episode Review: 9 out of 10
The Walking Dead was another series that gave us ulcers this fall. An exhaustive search for a lost little girl, Sophia, dominated the first half of the season and reduced the pace of everyone’s favorite zombie show to a near halt. Forget the show’s behind the scenes troubles, as we mentioned in part one, the seven last episodes of the Walking Dead were hard enough to like on their own. That is, until the final moments of that half-season finale, when Shane pried open those majestic barn doors, where Herschel was keeping all his favorite zombies. Out come dozens of zombies, as the survivors are forced to put their new gun training to good use to save themselves.
But then, out of the barn comes the very girl that everyone had been looking for. That’s right, Sophia was (un)dead and in Herschel’s barn the entire time. Naturally, the show’s resident little girl killer Rick is the one who gets to shoot her in the end, just like he shot that little girl in the very first episode of Dead last year. A perfect ending to a show some of us were having a hard time liking with Frank Darabont in the unemployment line. At this point, the show’s February 12th return can’t come fast enough.
8. Michael Scott leaves The Office
Series: The Office, S07E22 “Goodbye, Michael”
Original Air Date: April 28, 2011 on NBC
BWP’s Episode Review: 10 out of 10
It’s been a love and hate relationship for us and The Office this eighth season, and a lot of that has to do with the departure of Steve Carell from the show. We’ve argued about whether Michael Scott’s absence has been good for the show or not, and we will continue to argue until the show inevitably comes off the air. However well Andy Bernanrd (Ed Helms) has been able to hold down the fort, the simple truth is that he will always be compared to his predecessor. For better or for worse. Usually for worse.
But forgetting the reduced quality of the series this fall, it should be noted that last season’s “Goodbye, Michael” episode, Steve Carell’s last with the series, was arguably the best in the show’s long history. Michael is engaged and on his way to Colorado to live with his wife to be and her aging parents, and the Dunder Mifflin boss has to make some difficult goodbyes at the office, with the usual uncomfortable twists and turns. The only way this episode could have been more perfect would be if it was The Office’s series finale. And we mean that in the most sincere way possible.
7. Carrie finally confronts Brody on his ties to Al Qaeda
Series: Homeland, S03E07 “The Weekend”
Original Air Date: November 13, 2011 on Showtime
BWP’s Episode Review: 9.5 out of 10
These days, it’s rare to find a show that ropes us in so perfectly so early in its run. A lot of shows are about a slow build, about getting viewers accustomed to characters and setting up storylines. Conversely, “Homeland” managed to build its characters to a tipping point, blow up (almost literally) all its storylines and keep us on the edge of our seats the entire way with just a twelve episode run. A lot of shows can’t do that in 100 episodes. I’ve been thinking hard about which moment to choose for Homeland, as there’s obviously a lot of good the whole way through. The season finale was arguably the best episode, but there was one moment that really took everything about serial dramatic television and turned it on its head, and that was in episode 7, “The Weekend”.
Carrie has mixed business with pleasure, as she and Brody decide to escape their families and lives for a weekend of romping at Carrie’s family cabin. Things seem to be going well, until Carrie slips, revealing something she could have only found out through the early season surveillance of Brody’s house. Brody puts two and two together and soon everything is out on the table. Brody admits much of what happened in Afghanistan, Carrie reveals what she’s done since she gets back, and Brody storms off, acting offended. Little does Carrie know that Brody was lying to her (or, at least, withholding certain details), and it isn’t long before we finally see Brody make contact with one of Abu Nazir’s men. All of this, by the way, happens in about 10 minutes. Homeland, we can’t wait for you to come back.
6. Larry David chooses between Judaism and sex/chicken
Series: Entourage, S08E03 “Palestinian Chicken”
Original Air Date: July 25, 2011 on HBO
BWP’s Episode Review: 10 out of 10
Considering we just got done talking about how terrible Entourage was after eight seasons, it’s amazing to me that Larry David continues to hit it out of the park with “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, also in its eighth season. As a matter of fact, this past season of Curb may have been the show’s finest. I almost gave Curb a second entry on the list to recognize the brilliance of the season finale, but the real cream of the crop this year has to be “Palestinian Chicken”. Everything about the episode was perfect. You should read our review to get a good handle on why it’s so amazing, but I’m absolutely convinced that this is the kind of stuff people will be writing about in university papers in years to come.
In the episode, Larry David uses the backdrop of a Palestinian restaurant to make politically incorrect commentary about the ridiculousness of the conflict in Israel. Of course, for Larry, it’s less about the plight of his people and more about chicken and great sex. Everything about this episode, from the “LOL” lady, to Marty Funkhouser (Ben Einstein) wearing a Yarmulke all episode and sitting through Larry’s sexcapade works, but it all comes down to the very last scene of the episode. On one side, a Jewish deli and all of Larry’s friends, yelling at him to join them. On the other, the chicken place, and his Arab mistress, promising Larry a threesome with his sister.
Only Larry David.
5. Something happens to a Sean Bean character that happens way too often in the movies
Series: Game of Thrones S01E09, “Baelor”
Original Air Date: June 12, 2011 on HBO
(Contributed by Patrick Storto)
The first season of Game of Thrones was a critical success with the show receiving praise for both its writing and acting. While Peter Dinklage was praised for his role as Tyrion Lannister, which earned him an Emmy award, Sean Bean who played Ned Stark was the face of the series. The cast, led by Sean Bean was outstanding, which is why viewers of the show that were unfamiliar with the source material such as myself were shocked to learn of Ned Stark's ultimate demise.
Midway through the season, Ned discovers that Queen Cersei Lannister has been having an incestuous affair with her brother, Jamie Lannister. After further digging, Ned discovers that Joffrey Baratheon is actually the son of Jamie Lannister and not his good friend King Robert. Before Ned can convey this message to King Robert who is unaware and believes Joffrey to be the rightful heir to his throne, King Robert is killed as a result of a hunting accident. As a result of the King's death, Joffrey Baratheon takes the throne as King, despite his father's request that Ned Stark sits on the throne until Joffrey is older. Knowing that Joffrey is not the rightful heir to the throne, Ned Stark speaks out against him, which lands him in the King's prison. Ned Stark is then given the ultimatum of either publicly proclaiming Joffrey as his King or losing his head. Ned ultimately decides to bite the bullet and proclaim Joffrey to be the King, but Joffrey is unsympathetic and has Ned's head cut off anyways, leaving viewers both shocked and devastated.
4. Breaking Bad’s Season 4 Revelations
Series: Breaking Bad S04E13, “Face Off”
Original Air Date: October 9, 2011 on AMC
(Contributed by Patrick Phil Therien)
Breaking Bad's fourth season was admittedly a little slow paced, but it was all worth it in the end because the conclusion was simply fantastic. A lot of moments stand out; the most shocking being Gus' gruesome (and awesome) death to the hands of Walt and Hector.
Another moment of mention, and frankly probably more important, takes place in the last seconds of the finale, where we learn Walt was the one who poisoned Brock, Jesse's gilfriend's kid. That moment marked Walter's transition to full-blown super-villain, as he simply did not care who he hurt in order to achieve his goals. Walter had always been in between good and evil, but he has now gone fully dark and we can expect a different look from him in season 5.
3. The study group explores parallel universes
Series: Community, S03E03 “Remedial Chaos Theory”
Original Air Date: October 13, 2011 on NBC
BWP’s Episode Review: 10 out of 10
While the results of Troy’s darkest timeline were worse than originally expected, that didn’t stop Community from putting out one of the best single episodes of television we’ve ever seen this year. “Remedial Chaos Theory” bottled the group in Troy and Abed’s new apartment, and pondered the result of each of six rolls of a single die that forced one of the group members to step out and pick up pizza. The result is a mind-bogglingly complex and deep episode of TV, and hands down the best Community has ever had to offer. It doesn’t get much better than this. Our only hope is that when the show returns from hiatus in the spring, many other people will get to realize this.
Louis CK takes a baby duck to Afghanistan
Series: Louie, S02E11 “Duckling”
Original Air Date: August 25, 2011 on FX
BWP’s Episode Review: 10 out of 10
Louis CK pretty much redefined the way comedic television should be made this past summer. His FX show, “Louie”, is one of the best things to happen to TV in a long time. If we didn’t have so many other things to get to, Louie would probably have taken up 4 or 5 other spots on this list. But we have to pick just one Louie moment, and that has to be “Duckling”.
In the hour-long episode, Louis goes on a USO tour to Afghanistan. Unbeknownst to him, his daughter puts a baby duck in his luggage to “protect” him. Louie nurtures and hides the duckling after he discovers it, but when his group is confronted by a dangerous-looking group of locals, the duck gets free and quells what could have been a messy situation. It’s simplistic yet deep television, and it’s arguably one of the best single episodes of comedy to grace our screens in a long time; although for the life of me, I don’t remember laughing all that much. Season 2 of Louie wasn’t perfect, and felt, at times, a little uneven (for instance, this episode should have been the season’s finale, but was followed by two mediocre episodes), but Duckling was proof that he could do things right. It’s only going to get better from here.
Charlie Harper Dies
Series: Two and a Half Men, S09E01, “Nice to Meet You, Walden Schmidt”
Original Air Date: September 19, 2011 on CBS
BWP’s Episode Review: 7 out of 10
The Charlie Sheen controversy dominated the TV headlines most of the year. From Sheen’s firing from Two and a Half Men, to his complete mental breakdown with all the tiger blood and winning, to Sheen’s rebound and finally his replacement on the show, it was an eventful year for the actor, and for everyone involved with Two and a Half Men. But no moment in that entire controversy was more significant than the most recent season premiere of the show, where Chuck Lorre and his staff dealt with the departure of Sheen, and the arrival of Ashton Kutcher as Walden Schmidt, the man who ends up buying Charlie Harper’s home through a set of unusual circumstances.
The majority of the episode would show us Harper’s funeral, explaining his death and then dealing with the consequences (among plenty of inappropriate zingers about a dead Charlie Harper). Eventually, Kutcher would appear as Schmidt after a failed suicide attempt (the water was too cold) and he would enter Alan’s (Jon Cryer’s) life for the foreseeable future.
The episode wasn’t the best thing on TV all year, not by a long shot, but it was the most significant. It was the most watched episode of scripted television in years, and it was the major litmus test for a show that was overstaying its welcome WITH Sheen. Whether the casting change was a success or not remains to be seen. The ratings have pretty much been cut in half since a ridiculous 28 million tuned in to watch the premiere, but the average since the first few episodes is surprisingly better than how the show was doing in season 8, all but ensuring a 10th season and possibly more. Whatever you think about it all, the controversy created by the parties involved, and the significant and decisive way the show would write off Sheen’s character as a result make the season premiere of Two and a Half Men the most significant moment in television in 2011.