One of the reasons I love TV so much is because the format is so freakin’ goofy. People don’t sit around comparing chapters in novels because we see it as a whole. With TV it’s as much about the parts as it is about the whole. Episodes are written to be seen separately and usually they’re viewed that way. A show can be terrible, but has one episode that is masterful. A series of great episodes in a row is an awesome feeling. It’s more common to rewatch specific episodes instead of a multiple season show.

Yesterday I wrote about the full seasons that were stellar in 2011, but I also want to highlight certain 30 or 60 minute blocks that were amazing. Instead of just having my opinion again, I brought in some friends. Each of us wrote about the best episode of some of the best shows of last year. Then we each supplied our own personal Top 10 list of the Best TV Episodes of 2011. We avoided spoilers as much as possible, but you are officially warned.

Breaking Bad

(Season Four, Episode 11, “Crawl Space”)

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By Dennis Sullivan, Senior at Ball State University

[Major Breaking Bad Season Four plot SPOILERS]

Imagine you’re in way over your head. And I mean way, way, WAY in over your head. You know you’re going to be murdered in the near future and because of your actions, everyone you love is going down as well. Your spouse, your children, your brother-in-law are all in danger.

Basically, you’ve messed up, but wait…what’s that? Hope? A way out? Is salvation really around the corner? It’s too good to be true, but it’s there! All you have to do is grab the money you’ve been saving in the crawl space back at home and you can flee! New names, new locations, new life. It would be a difficult transition and hard to explain to the family, but that’s better than being dead, right?

You rush home to get the money. It’s exactly where you left it! But wait…some of it is missing. Actually, a lot of it’s missing. Uh oh. You ask your spouse, who admits to giving to the person she cheated on you with.

And suddenly, it hits you. It’s over. You lost. With no other options, all you can do is laugh.

Now you can understand the most haunting moment in season 4 of Breaking Bad. In a season of tense, shocking, and borderline insane moments, the image of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) lying and laughing in the crawl space of his house sticks out high above the rest.

As a viewer, you’re left with goose bumps. The writers spent three and a half seasons building up White’s ego only to have it come crashing down all at once. Every option and friend he has is gone and with two episodes left in the season, it is impossible to guess where the show’s going. All you know is that it’s going to be good.

You may ask how you can know? Just look at the rest of this episode. Gunshot victims are taken to an off-the-record hospital. White purposely drives his car into oncoming traffic to prevent his partially paralyzed DEA brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris) from snooping around the location of his meth lab. White’s partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul) is placed in charge of the meth lab for the first time. White’s boss, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), does little to save face by bragging to his mute and crippled rival that he killed off the entire cartel they were both part of. White’s wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) indirectly causes the death of her former boss and lover, Ted (Christopher Cousins), which is one of the most humorous ends to a plotline the show has done. And Gus has his henchmen kidnap White, tie him up, and drive him into the desert to threaten not only his life, but his family’s as well. That’s when White realizes he’s in way over his head.

Breaking Bad is the best show on television. There. I said it. You can try to argue with me on that point, but deep down, you know I’m right. Outstanding acting, beautiful directing, and shockingly perfect writing all come together in a visual experience unlike any other. It is one of those rare shows that get better year after year. Nearly any episode this season could have been selected as the best. The finale was another strong contender, but without “Crawl Space”, the finale would have never happened. It was in this episode that the show changed forever. We finally saw Walter White’s lowest point and now we’re left to wonder if he can recover. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that, yes, there will be blood.

Dennis’ Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Community” (Season Three, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory”)
2. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 11, “Crawl Space”)
3. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 13, “Face Off”)
4. “South Park” (Season Fifteen, Episode 7, “You’re Getting Old”)
5. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 9, “Baelor”)
6. “Archer” (Season Two, Episode 10, “El Secustro”)
7. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (Season Seven, Episode 3, “Frank Reynolds’ Little Beauties”)
8. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 1, “Box Cutter”)
9. “Parks and Recreation” (Season Three, Episode 9, “Andy and April’s Fancy Party”)
10. “Boardwalk Empire (Season Two, Episode 12, “To the Lost”)

Community

(Season Three, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory”)

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By Ken Jones, The Reel Deal producer

With a show as fantastic as Community it is difficult to pick the best episode of the year. To help me chose I thought about which episode I have talked with people the most. That answer is clearly “Remedial Chaos Theory”. Troy and Abed throw a housewarming party and Jeff creates six alternate timelines by rolling a dice to decide who will go get the pizza from downstairs. It may seem like something we’ve all seen before, but Community gave the concept freshness in a way only it could. Every time a different person goes to get the pizza the several storylines happening are altered dramatically. It is a fascinating look into the dynamics of the group and simply wildly fun and entertaining.

Ken’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 13, “Face Off”)
2. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”)
3. “Community” (Season Three, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory”)
4. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 1, “Box Cutter”)
5. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 11, “Crawl Space”)
6. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 13, “The Wedding of River Song”)
7. “Archer” (Season Two, Episode 9, “Placebo Effect”)
8. “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” (Episode 4, “Beneath the Mask”)
9. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 8, “Let’s Kill Hitler”)
10. “Community” (Season Two, Episode 14, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”)

Doctor Who

(Season Six, Episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”)

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By Austin Lugar

Early in the episode, River Song recognizes what is about to happen. She’s from The Doctor’s future so she has already lived through this even though it’s new for our heroes. She says, “This is The Doctor’s darkest hour. He’ll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further.”

Such a statement is a bold one, but it’s the sort of challenge that Steven Moffat brings upon himself as writer. The first half of the episode is a daring rescue mission. There is plenty of extreme badassary thanks to Rory the Roman and a cool set of new characters like a lesbian couple from Victorian times with samurai swords. Then the drama sinks in.

It wasn’t just about the bad guys getting away or a few characters meeting their demise. All of the weight is because it’s all The Doctor’s fault. This group of villains have formed because they are devoted to stopping his reign of terror. The Doctor’s adventures may seem like fun, but there are serious consequences that will affect those he loves. When he met Amy Pond, her life was forever changed not because of the whimsy but because of the danger and scars that can’t be healed. What happens to her in this is The Doctor’s ultimate fall.

Then something fascinating happens. It’s not a simple cheat to save the day, but a small ray of hope. For the first time The Doctor is not horrified about what is to come in his future, but the slimmest possibility that what he does can cause benefit to the universe. It’s all through a major reveal and a secret the show has held for two years. No way, I’m going to spoil it here for you today. Watch the show!

Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”)
2. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 1, “Box Cutter”)
3. “Community” (Season Two, Episode 19, “Critical Film Studies”)
4. “Community” (Season Three, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory”)
5. “Archer” (Season Two, Episode 10, “El Secuestro”)
6. “Treme” (Season Two, Episode 11, “Do Watcha Wanna”)
7. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 11, “Crawl Space”)
8. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”)
9. Louie (Season Two, Episode 3, “Moving”)
10. “The Hour” (Season One, Episode 1, “Episode 1”)

Friday Night Lights

(Season Five, Episode 13, “Always”)

Friday Night Lights

By Ryan Lugar, Freshman at Purdue University

Friday Night Lights started off as a great book, evolved into a motion picture and ended as an amazing television show that will be forever remembered. The show brought together a wide collection of characters that the audience couldn’t help but get emotionally attached to. In a show that is supposedly centered around football, the worry and care about the sport in the final episode of the season and show were non-existent. With football out of the way, the theme of family and love reigned supreme. I won’t give away any spoilers so I will keep the details to a minimum. The show is clearly wrapping up all loose ends for all characters in a spectacular way, whether it is bringing back old characters, to close the chapter for another character or other characters breaking the mold. What can remain true over it all is the theme of family and love, which the Taylor family lives by and rubs off on to everyone around them. It is this real love that is shown on the show that makes the audience cry because the show is over but smile all the same because they get to see the characters they have watched evolve come to a truly happy ending.

Ryan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Friday Night Lights” (Season Five, Episode 13, “Always”)
2. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”)
3. “ESPN’s 30 for 30” (“Catching Hell”)
4. “Community” (Season Two, Episode 21, “Paradigms of Human Memory”)
5. “South Park” (Season Fifteen, Episode 1, “HumancentiPad”) & (Bonus Documentary, “Six Days to Air”)
6. “Community” (Season Two, Episode 19, “Critical Film Studies”)
7. “ESPN’s 30 for 30” (“Roll Tide/War Eagle”)
8. “Friday Night Lights” (Season Five, Episode 12, “Texas Whatever”)
9. ABC Special (“A Celebration of the Life of Dan Wheldon”)
10. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”)

Game of Thrones

(Season One, Episode 9, “Baelor”)

By J.C. Pankratz, Senior at DePauw University

“Baelor” redefined what I considered a horrifying moment of television, especially given the lack of blood and guts spilled in the duration of the episode. This is a show perpetuated by the schemes of others—after all you play to win in the game of thrones. But, even the most high, mighty and cunning players are waiting with baited breath by the end, and perhaps what is most upsetting—and mesmerizing—is watching each of their schemes, no matter how well-plotted, shatter and explode.

J.C.’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 9, “Baelor”)
2. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”)
3. “Community” (Season Two, Episode 14, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”)
4. “Parks and Recreation” (Season Two, Episode 9, “Andy and April’s Fancy Party”)
5. “Boardwalk Empire” (Season Two, Episode 12, “To the Lost”)
6. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 10, “The Girl Who Waited”)
7. “Community” (Season Three, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory”)
8. “Parks and Recreation” (Season Three, Episode 16, “Li’l Sebastian”)
9. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 10, “Fire and Blood”)
10. “Community” (Season Two, Episode 21, “Paradigms of Human Memory”)

Justified

(Season Two, Episode 13, “Bloody Harlan”)

Justifed

By Larry D. Sweazy, novelist and 2011 winner of Best Fiction Book of Indiana

I thought there was no way Justified could get any better after Season One. Once the writers found their stride, and decided to keep Boyd Crowder, portrayed brilliantly by Walton Groggins, alive and at the center of the storyline, the first season ended in a crescendo rightly called “Bulletville.” I have said “Bulletville” is the best season finale ever, and I still stand by that. So, I was certain of a sophomore slump, expected a dip in season two—and I was ultimately and gratefully, wrong. I’m not going to recount all of season two here, but let’s just say this: Margo Martindale walked in as Mags Bennett and took the show to another level (and deservedly won an Emmy). Jeremy Davies as the crippled-by-Raylan-Givens-bad-guy added a polar layer to Boyd’s nastiness and teetering confusion between good and evil. Raylan, Timothy Olyphant on point as usual, had his own struggle with right and wrong, and really, I hope he dumps that no good Winona once and for all. The entire season wrapped up in a blood feud worthy of being called “Bloody Harlan.” Raylan barely got out of Harlan alive this time. For this episode to have the full impact, you’ll have to watch the entire season from beginning to end.

Larry’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Justified” (Season Two, Episode 13, “Bloody Harlan”)
2. “Justified” (Season Two, Episode 1, “The Moonshine War”)
3. “Justified” (Season Two, Episode 11, “Full Commitment”)
4. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 1, “Winter is Coming”)
5. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 9, “Baelor”)
6. “Hell on Wheels” (Season One, Episode 3, “A New Birth of Freedom”)
7. “True Blood” (Season Four, Episode 1, “She’s Not There”)
8. “Luther” (Season Two, Episode 1, “Episode 1”)
9. “Chopped (Season Six, Episode 1, “Victory on the Brain”)
10. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 10, “Fire and Blood”)

Louie

(Season Two, Episode 11, “Duckling”)

Louie

By Aaron Wittwer, Ball State graduate

As could be said of the series, Louie, as a whole, “Duckling” is remarkable more for the things it doesn’t do, the clichés it doesn’t fall into, and the messages it doesn’t try to send than for anything that actually happens in the episode itself. Here, we follow Louie on a USO trip to Afghanistan, but it’s not an episode about the war. It’s doesn’t try shove any political nonsense down your throat. It’s not biased. And, most importantly, it avoids the hyper-sentimentality inherent in the subject matter. Outside of the overarching concept, there is no clearly definable plot. It’s more just a collection of interactions between Louie and the various people he meets. The soldiers are neither mocked, nor put on some sort of heroic pedestal of moral perfection. The patriotic country singer character, who would be the brunt of the joke in any other sitcom, is just an honest, sincere guy trying to entertain the troops. The USO cheerleader, whose ignorance of Led Zeppelin and insistence that Louie make his act “more Christian” should make her an easy target for ridicule, functions more as a spotlight on Louie’s inability to connect with those around him. And that’s where much of the comedy of this episode comes from. Whether it be his fear of an attack that neither the soldiers nor the ex-army singer share, or his self-consciously pathetic attempts to pick up one of the cheerleaders, Louie’s insecurities put him in a constant state of unease. But it’s not overplayed. Louie doesn’t go around muttering things like “what am I doing here?” and “I’m too old for this”, rather this is accomplished in much more and honest and natural ways; through subtle hesitations, glances, and passing hints of anxiety in dialogue.

Aaron’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 13, “Face Off”)
2. “Justified” (Season Two, Episode 13, “Bloody Harlan”)
3. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”)
4. “Community” (Season Three, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory”)
5. “Being Human” (Season Three, Episode 6, “The Longest Day”)
6. “American Horror Story” (Season One, Episode 5, “Halloween: Part 2”)
7. “Misfits” (Season One, Episode 7, “Episode Seven”)
8. “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” (Season One, Episode 26, “The Best Night Ever”)
9. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (Season Eight, Episode 2, “The Safe House”)
10. “True Blood” (Season Four, Episode 11, “And When I Die”)

Parks and Recreation

(Season Four, Episode 9, “The Trial of Leslie Knope”)

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By Keith Jackson, co-host of the podcast “And the Nominees Are”

I promise I’m not showing any bias to Parks and Rec just because it’s set in Indiana. But without a doubt, the comedy had one of the best years of any network show. Community had a great episode that poked fun at “mockumentary” shows like The Office, Modern Family and Parks and Rec.Admittedly this narrative device is one of the weaknesses of the show, but somehow it isn’t as obtrusive as it is in others like it. There are better punch lines in the “confessionals”, as the lesser shows resort to staring at the (seemingly invisible) camera. Funny faces are funny(?).

It’s hard to pick a single episode to highlight since the show maintains quality pretty much every week with its memorable characters. One of the best steps the show made was introducing Adam Scott and Rob Lowe’s characters. But you can’t forget about the minor characters—for instance, I can’t help but laugh whenever Perd from “Ya’ Heard? with Perd” shows up. And Tom’s friendship with Jean-Ralphio to create Entertainment 720 created some incredibly funny situations.

But I won’t cop out and say “every episode’s a winner!” This current season is Parks and Rec’s “fourth (well, third-and-a-half), and it seemed every episode topped the previous week’s. One that comes to mind is “The Trial of Leslie Knope”, which had more plot development than the last three seasons of The Office (I’m assuming). Leslie and Ben have been having a secret relationship that is frowned upon in the workplace. When Chris finds out about it, an ethics trial is held to make sure there isn’t corruption. A callback to an earlier season occurs when the maintenance worker from the Lil’ Sebastian remembrance testifies that he was bribed. While a loophole is sought, it is discovered that Ben took responsibility and Leslie will not completely lose her job. A tender moment is presented in a clever and humorous way: by way of the stenographer.

The best episodes of any comedy are ones that exhibit both heart and humor. “The Trial of Leslie Knope” had this in spades, and a fun play on courtroom drama to boot.

Keith’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 13, “The Wedding of River Song”)
2. “Community” (Season Two, Episode 19, “Critical Film Studies”)
3. “Parks and Recreation” (Season Four, Episode 9, “The Trial of Leslie Knope”)
4. “Archer” (Season Two, Episode 5, “The Double Deuce”)
5. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”)
6. “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” (His week in Paris)
7. “Parks and Recreation” (Season Three, Episode 12, “Eagleton”)
8. “Community” (Season Three, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory”)
9. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 6, “A Golden Crown”)
10. “Community” (Season Two, Episodes 23-24, “A Fistful of Paintballs” / “For a Few Paintballs More”)

Treme

(Season Two, Episode 11, “Do Watcha Wanna”)

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By Beau Thompson, Ball State Graduate

[SPOILERS for the end of the season, only in the 2ndparagraph]

I don’t think I’ve seen a show that has a stronger sense of time and place than Treme. It feels like a documentary crew just happened upon this characters while filming the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in the United States‘ history. This is not surprising, considering that the creator of the show, David Simon, is the co-creator of The Wire A.K.A The Greatest Show in Television History. Like The Wire, “Treme” explores the workings of a city (New Orleans) and follows an ensemble of characters of different social classes roughly a year after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes, and their spirit. They are trying to rebuild their lives while dealing with a government that seems more problematic than helpful.

The storytelling is masterful. Each episode takes its time with these characters, as we see every aspect of their lives. This slow pacing comes together in beautiful fashion in Season Two’s finale “Do Whatcha Wanna”. The episode shows the characters dealing with the end of old dreams, and the possible promise of others to come. Both Davis, and Antoine quit their bands, but Davis has a potential bright future with his girlfriend, Annie, whose ex-boyfriend, Sonny, is finding love with something other than a guitar, and cocaine. But the highlight came with Ladonna, when she encounters of the men who sexually assaulted her. Khandi Alexander simply gives the best performance I’ve seen on any medium this year with playing this woman who finally snaps out of the depression that her rape has caused her, and becomes the strong person that she used to be.

Season Two has characters dealing with sexual assault, murder, suicide, moral and financial corruption, and redemption, yet I am still left with a smile on my face at the end of the season, because there is the music shown between the drama. The humanity is shown. We, as the audience, get to share with the good, and bad times with these characters, and through them, we get a glimpse of history, and can identify with a people and culture that we might not have otherwise understood; we wish these characters, like the real survivors of Hurricane Katrina, the best. “Treme” allows us to visit New Orleans, and makes us not want to leave.

Beau’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 13, “Face Off”)
2. “Treme” (Season Two, Episode 11, “Do Watcha Wanna”)
3. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 7, “You Win or You Die”)
4. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 11, “Crawl Space”)
5. “Doctor Who” (Season Six, Episode 8, “Let’s Kill Hitler”)
6. “Treme” (Season Two, Episode 7, “Carnival Time”)
7. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 10, “Salud”)
8. “Breaking Bad” (Season Four, Episode 8, “Hermanos”)
9. “Community” (Season Three, Episode 1, “Biology 101”)
10. “Game of Thrones” (Season One, Episode 5, “The Wolf and the Lion”)

Wilfred

(Season One, Episode 4, “Acceptance”)

Wilfred

By Mike Gospel, Junior at the University of Miami of Ohio

I find it tough to choose an absolute favorite episode of Wilfred, but I think that episode 4, “Acceptance,” may be the one. It is starting to become clear that despite how annoyed by Wilfred Ryan may be, Ryan values Wilfred as his closest friend. This episode shows the beginning of the Ryan-Wilfred relationship norm of “Wilfred tells Ryan to do something, Ryan is skeptical, Ryan finally gets pushed over the edge, shenanigans ensue, a lesson is learned.”

I loved Ed Helms as a guest star, and a good part of why I picked this episode as my “favorite” is that it was where we were first introduced to the character of Bear. I first wanted to start watching Wilfred because of all the “personification of a dog” humor that you get to see out of Brian Griffin in early Family Guy episodes. A perfect example from this episode is when Wilfred says, “Ryan how can I be racist, I’m incapable of seeing color.”

Bear ends up being Wilfred’s sex object/wife and actually a relatively crucial character, which is absolutely hilarious.

The interactions between Ryan and Wilfred are always fun and sometimes crazy, but as far as a show where a pot-smoking dog is played by a human in a giant furry costume, it is one of the most genuine shows I watched this year.

Mike’s Top 10 Episodes of 2011

1.“Family Guy” (Season Ten, Episode 5, “Back to the Pilot”)
2. “The Office” (Season Eight, Episode 2, “The Incentive”)
3. “Modern Family” (Season Three, Episode 1, “Dude Ranch”)
4. “30 Rock” (Season , Episode 100, “100”)
5. “Dexter” (Season Six, Episode 9, “Get Gellar”)
6. “Saturday Night Live” (Season Thirty-Seven, Episode 7, “Jason Segel”)
7. “Castle” (Season Four, Episode 2, “Heroes and Villains”)
8. “Wilfred” (Season One, Episode 4, “Acceptance”)
9. “Desperate Housewives” (Season Seven, Episode 23, “Come On Over for Dinner”)
10. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (Season Seven, Episode 7, “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games”)