File this observation under "ironic," but ever since reality series became a dominant force, TV has been getting more and more unreal.

What a bizarre year 2009 was, no? As if to compensate for the recent loss of Adrian Monk, the medium itself became obsessive-compulsive.

The small screen was completely consumed with the death of Michael Jackson, the Tiger Woods scandal, the OctoMom, the boy in the Mylar balloon, and the uninvited guests at the White House. (The last two events, it bears mentioning, were arranged by people desperate to get on reality shows.)

Unemployment is running rampant, health-care reform has moved with the speed of a glacier, Afghanistan is turning into a quagmire, yet the tube was fixated on an extravagantly eccentric pop star who hadn't topped the charts humously in 14 years.

Down the tubes. Granted, television's primary function is to distract us, but it didn't do a very good job of that in 2009.

Remember Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with Richard Basehart? (For those who don't remember, it was a series back in the '60s about an atomic submarine). NBC is determined to sink lower than the sub.

The network canceled two of the few good shows it had, Life and Southland, and stuck its best series, Friday Night Lights, in limbo. Then it turned over more than 20 percent of its prime-time schedule to Jay Leno. Say good night, Gracie.

Once Sunday Night Football wraps up its season next week, you might as well deprogram NBC from your channel array.

He said it. The network did have one dubious distinction: providing the on-air quote of the year. It was uttered on, of all places, I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here, courtesy of Spencer Pratt, who with Heidi Montag is half of America's most noxious couple, Speidi. "I am a super celebrity," he boasted. "My wife is a super celebrity. We're the most famous people in the world!"

Somebody get those two a reality show. Stat! Oh, that's right - it was The Hills that foisted them on an unsuspecting public in the first place.

The rise and fall. Speaking of reality-show spouses, the Gosselins blew up like a supernova and then blew away. Jon & Kate Plus 8 set viewer records for TLC and was canceled, all in the same season.

Who knows? Maybe Cara and Mady will get their own show.

No love in the afternoon. CBS became the Grim Reaper of soaps, first pulling the plug on Guiding Light and then announcing that As the World Turns would cease to exist in September. What are we supposed to do without Springfield and Oakdale? They were the Jupiter and Mars of the daytime sky. Reva and Josh were the most famous people in the world!

The natives are restless. You know it's a strange year when Garden Staters are producing most of the buzz on TV. But how dull would things have been without The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Jersey Shore? I hear Speidi is (are?) thinking of moving to Trenton.

It was a little pitchy, dawg. At least TV's No. 1 show, American Idol, had an eventful year, adding one judge, the bland Kara DioGuardi, and cashiering another, colorful space case Paula Abdul.

Paula and the show parted ways over contract negotiations. Apparently, she had gotten tired of being paid in Hello Kitty stickers.

The winner of the singing contest's eighth season was pretty boy Kris Allen. No sooner were the results announced than Allen vanished from sight so thoroughly that Anthony LaPaglia couldn't find him.