The Biggest TV Moments of 2011

The year 2011 has been a rollercoaster ride, but luckily there were usually cameras rolling.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS
RETRANSMITTED FOR BETTER QUALITY - BEST QUALITY AVAILABLEnPrince William and his wife Kate Middleton, who has been given the title of The Duchess of Cambridge, kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, following their wedding at Westminster Abbey on Friday April 29, 2011. (AP Photo/John Stillwell, Pool)
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ASSOCIATED PRESS
There were highs, there were lows and there were "mehs," but these are the stories that kept us watching throughout 2011. Unquestionably the biggest event of the year was the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, which was carried on 11 networks and drew 22.8 million viewers—larger than Prince Charles and Lady Di's TV audience.
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As Kate Middleton became Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, an estimated 2.8 million people hit Facebook with a Royal Wedding-related status update, with roughly 237 tweets for every second of the wedding ceremony.
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Like a popular TV show, there was even an unlikely breakout star. Kate's sister Pippa became a worldwide celebrity in her own right when she showed up looking stunning in a dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.
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...although Pippa was nearly upstaged by the antics of flower girl Grace van Cutsem, age three. Well, the much-anticipated "first" kiss was, in any case.
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Of course, 2011 will inevitably be known as "The Year of Sheen." The year-long media circus began when the "Two and a Half Men" star called into Alex Jones' syndicated radio show to rant about his backstage bickering with "Men" creator Chuck Lorre, mostly centered around Sheen's hard-living ways.
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Armed with personal catchphrases like "winning" and "tiger's blood," Sheen introduced the world to his non-traditional home life with girlfriends Bree Olsen and Natalie Kenly—whom Sheen referred to as his "goddesses." The trio then hit the road on the polarizing "Violent Torpedo of Truth" live stage show tour.
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As the live tour tapered off with a whimper, Sheen appeared to be reining in his unhinged ways. Looking much more collected, he gleefully sat down for a Comedy Central roast in his (dis)honor.
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He then appeared to warm applause at the Emmy Awards, where he offered kind words of encouragement to his former "Two and a Half Men" co-stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones and a welcome to his replacement, Ashton Kutcher.
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On the same night Comedy Central roasted Sheen, CBS debuted the revamped "Two and a Half Men" to record-setting ratings. The sitcom drew 27.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched episode of any show ever on a Monday night.
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However, rating began to slip after the premiere, and Kutcher's marital problems with Demi Moore started to garner more headlines than the show. Kutcher allegedly had a fling with a 22-year-old San Diegoan in a hot tub—which made a recent hot tub sex joke on "Men" more than a little awkward. In November, Demi filed for divorce.
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Hoping to breathe new life into the musical competition format, NBC debuted "The Voice," featuring host Carson Daly and music "coaches" Cee-Loo Green, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton. The show was a huge success, topping both "Dancing with the Stars" and "Glee" on its premiere night.
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When the dust settled, Javier Colon secured his place in trivia history by becoming the first-ever "Voice" champion. The 33-year-old Connecticut native won the competition for "Team Adam."
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"The Voice" was a welcome return to form for Aguilera, who kicked off the year in dubious fashion when she disastrously flubbed the national anthem at the Super Bowl.
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Oh, and then there was that OTHER musical competition you may have heard of. A newly-retooled "American Idol" was unveiled this year, with new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez replacing the departed Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. The show barely missed a step, maintaining its strong ratings performance.
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The finale, watched by 29.3 million people, pitted Lauren Alaina against Scotty McCreery. Eighteen-year-old North Carolina native McCreery took the title.
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Meredith Vieira ended her five-year run as host of "Today" with a grand going-away party. The entirety of 30 Rock, from producers and show runners to on-air talent and special celebrity guests, took to the plaza to wish her farewell with an elaborate song and dance number that ended with a grateful Vieira in tears.
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When Vieira stepped down, it was immediately announced that the co-host torch would be passed to 14-year "Today" show veteran Ann Curry.
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The 2011 Grammy Awards show was a study in contrasts. On one side, you had the always unconventional Lady Gaga emerging from an egg for her live performance...
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...and on the other side, you had folk legend Bob Dylan taking the stage with up-and-coming bands Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers for a banjo-heavy rendition of "Maggie's Farm."
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It's not unusual for an HBO original series to become a cultural phenomenon, but few anticipated the enormous out-of-the-box success of "Game of Thrones," an adaptation of author George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. SPOILER WARNING: The death of Sean Bean's Eddard "Ned" Stark was water cooler jaw-dropper.
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British comedian Ricky Gervais got himself into some hot water when his needling of celebrities as host of the Golden Globes rubbed the Hollywood community the wrong way. However, the caustic comic is coming back in 2012, so maybe Tinseltown can take a joke after all.
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Natalie Portman, who took home a Best Actress Golden Globe for "Black Swan," earned some YouTube infamy with her cringe-worthy acceptance speech and goofball laugh.
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Portman's awkwardness and Gervais' acidity aside, the night did feature two particularly heartfelt and heartwarming moments. Michael Douglas, in the middle of his cancer battle, took the stage and received thunderous applause. "There has to be an easier way to get a standing ovation," the veteran actor joked.
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The other moment belonged to "Glee" star Chris Colfer, who not only seemed genuinely shocked by his win but also took his moment in the spotlight to call for an end to prejudice and bullying.
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After weeks of rumor, CBS confirmed in April that Katie Couric would be stepping down as anchor of "Evening News," a position she had held since 2006. The veteran newswoman's final show aired May 19, and thereafter, she began working on a syndicated program believed to be launching in 2012.
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The iconic and phenomenally influential daytime talk show "The Oprah Winfrey Show" also came to an end this year after 25 seasons. Winfrey, who left the show to dedicate her time to her recently-launched OWN Network, ended her run with a parade of guests including President and Mrs. Obama and infamous couch-jumper Tom Cruise.
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A member of the "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" cast since 1999, veteran actor Christopher Meloni announced he would not be returning for the show's 13th season. The announcement came as a shock to long-time fans, and a contract dispute was rumored to be the impetus behind it.
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The 2011 Academy Awards' effort to reach a younger demographic backfired badly as co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco slogged through a tonally-challenged and joke-bomb-riddled Oscar telecast.
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Speaking of bombs, an ecstatic Melissa Leo dropped one of the "F" variety during the live show when she accepted her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the boxing drama "The Fighter."
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One of the show's few highlights was a surprise appearance by beloved eight-time Oscar host Billy Crystal. It was recently announced that the veteran comic will be coming back for his ninth go-round in 2012.
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The suicide of 47-year-old Russell Armstrong, estranged husband of Taylor Armstrong, cast a huge shadow over the second season premiere of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." It was rumored the entire season would be scrapped, but an edited version aired as scheduled.
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"Glee" star Jane Lynch was handed the hosting duties for the 63rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Her video montage opening and clever zingers ("A lot of people are very curious as to why I'm a lesbian — ladies and gentleman, the cast of 'Entourage!'") set the tone for a successful show.
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The Emmys also officially crowned "Modern Family" as TV's new comedy heavyweight. The ABC show scooped up nearly all the category's awards, including nods for stars Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen...
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...as well as "Outstanding Writing" awards for creators Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman, and "Outstanding DIrecting" for Michael Spiller. In his speech, Levitan joked that "Modern Family" teaches people to accept the relationship between an old man and a hot young woman.
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After seven seasons as Dunder-Mifflin boss Michael Scott, Steve Carell said good-bye to "The Office." His exit led to a great deal of speculation about who would replace him — as well as a parade of guest stars.
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As season eight of "The Office" kicked off, Scott's seat was occupied, at least temporarily, by the terrifyingly intense Robert California, played by veteran actor James Spader.
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Yes, 2011 was the year of endings. Denis Leary's firefighter drama "Rescue Me" closed its bay doors for the final time on Sept. 7 after seven seasons.
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In the spring, ABC announced that the eighth season of "Desperate Housewives," which premiered in October, would be the show's last. The news came as a surprise to fans and even a few cast members.
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The always-controversial "Jersey Shore" headed to Florence, Italy, for season four, despite that city's attempts to do everything to impede the show's production. Still, tongues wagged everywhere when Deena Cortese and Snooki locked lips.
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The Situation got himself into a, er, situation with roomie Ronnie, and the two came to blows in a particularly explosive episode. The Situation appeared to get the worst of it. (Um, have you seen Ronnie?)
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Not even "Dancing with the Stars" was immune to controversy. The show came under fire from some conservative groups when it was announced that Chaz Bono would be the first transgender contestant on the show. Chaz's mother, Cher, proudly came to his defense and showed her support.
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HLN host Nancy Grace then had her screengrab moment on the show when she suffered a slight "wardrobe malfunction" following a performance.
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Who knew "DWTS" was such a hotbed of controversy, right? The wrong kind of sparks flew for dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy and his partner, U.S. soccer star Hope Solo, when the Ukrainian hoofer got testy with judge Len Goodman. The incident caused a slight rift behind the scenes between "Team Maksim" and "Team Len."
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One of the most talked about season finales belonged to AMC's "Breaking Bad." The critically acclaimed series starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul ended its fourth season with a stomach-churning and literally explosive climax.
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After four seasons spent fighting off the advances of one vampire, another vampire and a werewolf (oh my), "True Blood" heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) finally chose... none of them. Fans were understandably shocked.
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They're baaaaaaack. The world erupted into stifled giggles when MTV announced that Mike Judge was bringing back his most famous animated creations. The new incarnation of "Beavis and Butthead" has the boys riffing not only on music videos but also on original MTV shows like "16 and Pregnant."
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KISS rocker Gene Simmons and actress Shannon Tweed have been a couple for 28 years and have two children, but on the eve of the season six premiere of their reality series "Gene Simmons Family Jewels," the pair announced that they would tie the knot. They wed on Oct. 2 in a ceremony bound for their show. Hey, better late than never.
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Ah, yes. The Kardashian wedding. Even though Kim's wedding to Kris Humphries wasn't even shown on TV until two months after it happened (and only a few weeks before she filed for divorce), it was a media spectacle to rival the Royals. And the marriage lasted only 72 days.
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