At this point, you can make the argument that any of the items in the Top 20 were contenders for the final spot on our Top 100 Everything list. But the ten items we have for you today have unselfishly allowed the final ten to claim spots at the Top 10 table. It's the holiday spirit shining through! Basically, no matter how you slice it, you're looking at the cream of the crop.
We'll be posting 10 items each weekday through December 30, so check back often to see what made the cut!
20. How I Met Your Mother loses a dad
Every once in a while, a comedy delivers one of the most emotional moments of the television season, and this year it was CBS's long-running comedy. The show had no business making us cry like babies, and no business doing it so well. But we're glad it did.
19. Jessica Lange's performance as Constance on American Horror Story
The story goes that in the early 1990s, Ryan Murphy saw a broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in which Jessica Lange chewed up the scenery (and curtains, and entire theater, and much of the street outside) as Blanche Dubois, the slightly dramatic southern belle at the center of Tennessee Williams' classic play. So when it came time to cast American Horror Story's supporting role of the Harmon family's nosy neighbor, Murphy made the audacious decision to not only cast Lange, but to ask her to essentially reprise her earlier performance. Although American Horror Story has proven divisive both in concept and execution (we find it incredible), few can dispute the magnetic, can't-look-away spectacle of Lange's weekly tour-de-force performance. Add to that a truly well-realized backstory and character arc, and Constance has proven to be not only one of 2011's greatest characters, but a shining highlight on an esteemed actress's already stellar resumé.
18. Boardwalk Empire's patricide and incest
Those who call HBO's Prohibition-era gangster drama slow obviously aren't watching all the episodes. Where else will you see a main character killing his father, having sex with his mom, and being killed off himself, all in the span of about 62 minutes?
17. Curb Your Enthusiasm makes fun of disease just right
When a terrible disease can be laughed at in a delicate light and without mean spirits, it's magical and actually draws positive attention. It may be a bit much to call it the triumph of the human spirit, but when Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's, made an appearance on Curb Your Enthusiasm, it was a rare case of turning something that could be considered tragic into something that made us laugh. Absolutely beautiful.
16. Fringe's universal appeal
Fox's sci-fi series has woven just as much philosophy into its storytelling as it has both science and fiction, playing with the ideas of perspective, existence, and destiny as they affect romance, family, and friendship. The show is able to realistically breach these concepts thanks to its incorporation of multiple universes and "mythalone" episodes that transfer thematic ideas through cases of the week. Also, it's, like, really cool.
15. Once Upon a Time's fairytale romance
After weeks of sharing flirty glances and donuts, Sheriff Graham's ultimately fatal crush on Emma burst into blossom as he chased her down the street and kissed her passionately after a smoldering confrontation. As unabashedly romantic as Once Upon at Time is, this moment stood out as a swooner.
14. Smallville takes flight
After nearly a decade of teasing Superman fans, it finally happened for real in the series finale. Clark flew, and learned to embrace his destiny as the Man of Steel. He can fly! He can fly!
13. True Blood finally scratches that itch
Ericookies and Snoorics had been waiting forever for the two to really––no dreams!––do some fang-banging. Beautiful people getting naked is always welcome on our television screen.
12. Emmy underdogs get their due
We try not to get too excited about awards shows, but dammit, we were just so proud of some of the winners at this year's Emmys that we couldn't help but throw our underwear at the television. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Margo Martindale (Justified), and Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) were names we'd hoped, but never expected, to hear.
11. South Park's Stan gets old
When was the last time an episode of South Park made you cry? We're not talking laughing-so-hard-because-this-weed-is-so-good cry, we're talking manly, rock-you-to-the-core tears. Seeing Stan outgrow his friends and suffer the throes of jaded adolescence in such a moving way was something we never expected from a show that once brought to life a pot-addicted towel that knew how to play "Funkytown" on a touch-tone keypad. One of the year's best episodes of television. (Watch the full episode right here.)
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