If any one word sums up this year in television, it's "transition." In May, Oprah Winfrey signed off after 25 years on her show with the words, "I won't say goodbye, I'll simply say, 'Until we meet again.'" Oprah's farewell season included updates on some of her most famous guests, memorable editions of Oprah's Favorite Things and a lavish trip to Australia for some of her biggest fans.
"Oprah had the biggest impact, and will leave the biggest hole," People magazine assistant editor Jen Garcia said.
Now the Queen of Daytime has turned her attention to her cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
"I think everybody is waiting for Oprah to come back with a vengeance," said Peter Castro, deputy managing editor at People magazine. "She's disappointed in the performance of her OWN network. I think it's humbling, but she needs to do something really, really big. And she's totally capable of doing it."
|Regis Says Goodbye|
The year began with a surprise announcement when morning maestro Regis Philbin said that after 28 years as co-host of "Live!" that he would be leaving. He said goodbye Nov. 18, thanking his fans "for these great years together."
"I'd like to try something a little bit different," Philbin told Katie Couric.
Winfrey and Philbin weren't the only ones saying farewell.
"You have Steve Carrell leaving 'The Office,'" Bill Carter of the New York Times said. "You have Meredith Vieira leaving 'The Today Show.' I would say bigger talent departures than any year I can remember. "
|End of the Road for 'All My Children'|
In 2011, the curtain also came down on Erica Kane. In September, "All My Children" became the latest in a long string of daytime soap operas to head off into the sunset.
"Soap operas became a phenomenon because there were a lot of housewives at home in a previous generation," Carter said. "That was really the core audience for all those years."
|The Year of the Housewives|
But nowadays, the housewives aren't watching TV, they're on it.
"I mean, these 'real housewives,' everybody wants to be on TV, and nobody seems to have any talent to do it," comedian Chelsea Handler said.
From New York City to Orange County, audiences seemingly couldn't get enough of the table-flipping, lip-plumping lifestyles of "The Real Housewives," a franchise that boasted as many as six stateside installments on Bravo this year. And, if that's not enough, two more in Israel and Athens.
"While it would be nice to think this is all good clean fun and it's just sort of sensationalized … there's a real dark side to this as well," said Kate Coyne, People magazine's assistant managing editor.
In August, not long after Beverly Hills housewife Taylor Armstrong filed for divorce from her husband Russell, citing physical and verbal abuse, he committed suicide.
"For all the talk about how dark it had gotten, for all the pressure to, maybe, say enough was enough and to draw a line in the sand, the show still aired as scheduled at the regularly scheduled premiere date," Coyne said. "It didn't stop them."
|Jersey Shore Storms Italy|
Cringe-worthy or compelling, love them or loathe them, it looks like reality-TV shows are here for the long haul.
"With scripted television, you have to hire really talented writers to think up 'what would crazy people do?' In reality TV, you just find crazy people, and film what they would do," writer and producer Brett Erlich said.
On MTV, "Jersey Shore" continued its trend of filming everywhere but the Jersey Shore.
"The premise was supposed to be just look at how fish out of water these guys are going to be in Italy, and maybe they would learn some culture, broaden their horizons," said Kate Coyne. "Instead, it was almost as though they went to the other extreme and tried to be as Jersey as they could possibly be."
|Crazy for the Kardashians|
But try as they might, Snooki and the situation were not able to upstage the first family of reality shows, the Kardashians.
"What is with the national fascination with 'Keeping up with the Kardashians'?" Coyne said. "I mean, is it sort of a fluffy diversion from the real problems we're all dealing with?"
Handler said, "I take issue with it, because I have to share a network with them, and I'm embarrassed."
"The Kardashians have definitely gone where most reality TV, and most TV in general, has not gone before," People's Garcia said.
In this year's appointment viewing, mom Kris Jenner got lifted ... Kourtney and Kim got naked ... and Kim and Kris got married ... and divorced.
"The fact that Kim's wedding was E's highest-rated show really says something about reality TV and the impact it's had on the public," Garcia said. "It really tells us that the sky's the limit, at least for now. "
|Chaz Bono on 'Dancing With the Stars'|
But why stop at the sky, when you can dance with the stars? That's what Chaz Bono did this fall, and found himself being judged more for his gender than his jive. Altough Chaz only lasted six weeks, his message was heard loud and clear.
"I came on this show because I wanted to show America a different kind of man," he said.
People's Castro said, "He used that show, and the 20 million viewers of that show to make a point. Make people aware that you're OK. You're not abnormal. And you should continue to live your life they way you want to. I applaud him."
|Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler Join 'Idol'|
And this year, the applause on the 10th season of "American Idol" was loudest not for the contestants, but for the new judges. Simon Cowell moved on, and Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler moved in.
"You never quite know what they're going to say and where the show's going to go," said Larry Hackett, managing editor at People magazine.
"Who would have thought that it would have created this completely bizarre new and actually successful kind of chemistry? " Coyne said.
But shed no tears for the perpetually confident Cowell, who predicted his heavily-hyped "X Factor" would get 20 million viewers or totally tank. "It's never had 20 million people watching it," Carter, of the New York Times, said.
So maybe we shouldn't believe everything Simon says. And another thing: Has the callous Cowell gone all soft on us?
"The way 'X-Factor' is structured, Simon specifically has a group of singers who are on his team, who he is working with and rooting for," Coyne said. "It's in his own best interest to be as critical as he ever was, but also a little nurturing as well. And that nurturing side of Simon is a whole new thing."
|Charlie Sheen Goes Rogue|
Former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen's fight with the show's creator, Chuck Lorre, and network, CBS, was one of the biggest TV stories of 2011 -- both for keeping the show off the air and generating weeks of celeb-watching catnip.
Sheen entered drug rehab in January, leading CBS to put "Two and a Half Men" on hiatus. In February Sheen criticized Lorre on the radio program "Alex Jones Show." CBS then announced it had canceled the rest of the season.
Sheen threatened to sue CBS for breach of contract and began a much-discussed string of media appearances to explain himself, state he was "winning" and taunt Lorre and CBS. One of the most memorable interviews he gave was with ABC News' Andrea Canning (see link below).
The uncertainty over "Two and a Half Men" ended when CBS hired Ashton Kutcher to take Sheen's place as co-star of the show.
|Death of Osama Bin Laden|
Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by Navy SEALS May 1, 2011, and his death was announced by President Obama in a televised address.
"Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
"Justice has been done," Obama said.
|The Royal Wedding|
Audiences around the world tuned in to watch Prince William say, "I do" to Kate Middleton April 29, in what was one of the biggest television events in history. Nearly 23 million households in the United States watched the event, which aired on more than 10 networks, according to Neilsen data.