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Ellen Gray: The 2011 TV rewind: Ellen Gray flashes back on a year of triumphs, flops & quirks

MAN didn't walk on the moon and the Berlin Wall did not fall in 2011. No one even shot J.R. (who'll be back in TNT's "Dallas" update next summer). And if Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction, I'm happy to say I missed it.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" will end after 25 years on Wednesday, May 25. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" will end after 25 years on Wednesday, May 25. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)Read more

MAN didn't walk on the moon and the Berlin Wall did not fall in 2011. No one even shot J.R. (who'll be back in TNT's "Dallas" update next summer). And if Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction, I'm happy to say I missed it.

Still, it was a year in television like most. More happened than could fit in a Top 10 list (not that I ever get mine narrowed to 10, anyway).

Here's how I'll remember it:

Word of the year: Vagina. (Runner-up: penis.) Not since Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" have so many actors had so much to say about a body part possessed by 51 percent of the population. From CBS' "2 Broke Girls" to ABC's "Suburgatory," broadcast TV was apparently on a mission in 2011 to educate Americans in basic anatomy. Maybe 2012's word will be "patella." Not only would the jokes practically write themselves, but they'd all be knee-slappers.

"Bad" guy we'll miss: Gus Fring. The "Breaking Bad" fried chicken-and-meth entrepreneur played by Giancarlo Esposito was evil's suave face - while he still had one - as well as a character whose backstory probably deserved its own TV series. Which, sadly, would now have to be a prequel.

Bait-and-switch that left us howling: AMC's "The Killing." Not just that infamous season finale, in which we learned that the case against mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) rested on evidence that couldn't actually exist, but a good chunk of the season. Adapted by Veena Sud from a Danish series titled "Forbrydelsen" (which, no, doesn't mean "The Cheat"), "The Killing" started out promisingly with the story of a young girl's murder in atmospheric Seattle but quickly turned into a weekly exercise in frustration, thanks to a plot that owed its movement to a veritable school of red herrings.

Creepy cable trend: Incest. It started with the Lannister twins (Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) on HBO's "Game of Thrones" and ended (one hopes) with that twisted near-declaration in the season finale of Showtime's "Dexter" (where, for added oomph, the amorous sister is played by Jennifer Carpenter, who used to be married to Michael C. Hall, who plays her adoptive brother Dexter).

The dubious couplings also included the offspring of donor sperm in HBO's quirky "Bored to Death" - oddly enough, the most likely scenario of the bunch - and reached its ickiest point in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." That's where the long hinted at mother-son attraction between the characters played by Gretchen Mol and Michael Pitt was on full display for viewers who might not have previously gotten the subtext. As if people watching a drama set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City needed to have everything spelled out for them.

"Shore" embarrassment: Snooki in Florence. Not content with marring the reputation of the actual Jersey shore, MTV exported its trash to Italy. Which, let's face it, has enough problems.

Set-in-Philly finale: "Friday Night Lights" took its last bow on NBC in a wish-fulfillment dream of an episode that had Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) moving from Texas to Philadelphia to boost not his own career but that of his wife, Tami (Connie Britton). Full hearts, but teary eyes all around.

Daytime departures: "The Oprah Winfrey Show" ended its 25-year run in national syndication, ABC's "All My Children" was yanked after 31 years (and will not, it seems, be resuming as an online soap), and the network canceled "One Life to Live," whose last episode is scheduled to air Jan. 13.

Dumbest new name in daytime: "The Chew." Food-focused replacement for "All My Children" on ABC, its title rhymes, of course, with "The View." Eeew.

Disconnects between hype and ratings: Oprah's OWN and Fox's "Terra Nova."

Disconnect between anger and ratings: NBC's "Playboy Club," which wasn't hounded to death by the Parents Television Council but died - as it deserved to - of viewer neglect.

Other shows whose viewership made protests unnecessary: MTV's "Skins" and TLC's "All-American Muslim."

Real estate "Horror" story: FX and "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy stuck an already troubled couple and their daughter in an oversize house so haunted "The Addams Family" wouldn't have lasted a week, and millions tuned in to watch the blood flow. So what if you owe more on your mortgage than your house is worth? At least you're not those poor slobs on "American Horror Story."

Taking one (OK, maybe more than one) for the team: Philly's Rob McElhenney, creator and one of the stars of FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," packed on 50 pounds - with advice from a nutritionist recommended by Chase Utley - to make the point that his isn't one of those sitcoms where the cast gets better-looking as the show goes on. Not surprisingly, the rest of the cast - which includes McElhenney's real-life wife, Kaitlin Olson - chose to let him make it alone. Though Danny DeVito seems to be at least holding steady at looking like Danny DeVito.

Civics lesson: The verdict in the Casey Anthony trial demonstrated that while people who get picked for juries might not be paid as much as HLN's Nancy Grace, they wield actual power. Something to think about the next time you're summoned.

"Buffy" disarmed: Sarah Michelle Gellar returned to television as a set of evil and not-so-evil twins in the CW's "Ringer," a demanding role that's so far left her little or no time to hunt down and slay the stars of the CW's "Vampire Diaries."

Bullet we dodged (so far): Bristol Palin's "reality" show, announced by A&E's Bio channel in May and scheduled to air later in 2011, has so far failed to materialize. At the time, the network hailed her as "the most famous single mother in America" (apparently even more famous than the ones on "16 and Pregnant") and a "national media darling." Maybe fame was fleeting? Fingers crossed on this one.

Royal wedding we didn't wake up for: Prince William and Kate Middleton were married in April in a DVR-friendly ceremony that was more interesting to television news than it was to most of the viewers in this former British colony. I caught the "Today Show" recap and was in and out in four minutes.

Another snorer: Katie Couric was replaced by Scott Pelley as anchor of "The CBS Evening News" with, blessedly, far less fanfare than accompanied her original hiring.

From frying pan to fire: The History Channel, after passing on "The Kennedys" - which went to ReelzChannel - either because it was too controversial or not historical enough, turned around and ordered a five-part, 10-hour docudrama on the Bible, to be "shot on location [employing] state-of-the-art visual effects" and produced by Mark Burnett, of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" fame. Look for that controversy to erupt in 2013.