By Lynette Rice and James Hibberd
Updated December 13, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST
ABC News

Two and a Half Men

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It’s a lot harder than it seems, whittling down the big stories that rocked the TV industry this year. Do we ignore how DirecTV tortured its subscribers by yanking the Viacom channels? Do we overlook how Disney Channel finally overcame the juggernaut that is Nickelodeon?

Yup, we do. There were just too many, far more significant milestones/flub-ups/hot messes that we wanted to acknowledge. So after much deliberation, here are the top 10 stories that had us buzzing and/or shaking or heads in disbelief.

10. Arrivederci, Jersey Shore and friends

Cable bid farewell to some pretty major powerhouses this year, including MTV’s Jersey Shore and Discovery’s American Choppers and Dirty Jobs. We’re not too sure how Discovery plans to fill the void left behind by Mike Rowe’s labor of love and those motorcycle boys, but MTV has already turned its back on Snooki and Co. by setting its sights on a bunch of hell raisers in West Virginia. Get ready, America.

9. Firefly reunion. Despite its abbreviated run on Fox in 2002, the Joss Whedon drama still managed to maintain what EW’s own Doc Jensen described as a “vibrant afterglow, nurtured by stalwart fans and new ones who continue to discover the series on DVD and cable.” To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Science Channel shot a reunion special called Firefly: Browncoats United featuring original stars like Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau — who also returned to see their most ardent fans last July in Comic-Con.

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8.Horse deaths on Luck

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best name for an HBO drama. Though the auspices were top-notch — David Milch! Michael Mann! Dustin Hoffman! Nick Nolte! — HBO elected to cancel production on Luck following the death of a third horse on the racetrack drama series.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

7. Angus T. Jones

The half in Two and a Half Men fell prey to a conspiracy theorist-cum-attention seeker Chris “The Forerunner” Hudson, who videotaped Jones criticizing the comedy that made him famous. The 19-year-old actor, who never actively sought press while starring on the CBS comedy, issued an apology just a few days later.

6. Good Morning America overtakes Today

The winning combination of George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, Sam Champion, Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer propelled the ABC morning show to the top spot for the first time in 16 years. Stephanopoulos said it best to EW: “On TV things are like an ocean liner — it’s hard to turn. So I thought it would take some time before we caught on around the country. It was a surprise when all of a sudden it just flipped. And once it flipped, it stayed flipped!”

5. Death of Larry Hagman

Rest in peace, J.R.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

4. American Idol/X Factor shakeups

Fox pulled a much-needed Etch-A-Sketch on both of its talent shows this year by bidding farewell to Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler of Idol, and Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger on X Factor. The latter show is doing kind of okay with Britney and Demi instead but the jury’s out on whether Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban are worthy replacements on Idol.

3. MIA flashes the bird at the Super Bowl

First the good news: Super Bowl XLVI was the most watched telecast in TV history! Now the bad news: MIA couldn’t just fade in the background without doing something extra special. During the halftime show, the feisty crooner flipped off millions of viewers during a performance of Madonna’s new single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” She also seemed to say an expletive, but it wasn’t really audible. Yey?

Gene Page/AMC

2. The Walking Dead’s behemoth ratings

We mean, they were just crazy this season. The third season premiere of the AMC zombie drama earned a 5.8 rating in 18-49 — bigger than any entertainment series this fall, including among all the broadcast shows. It also attracted a stunning — stunning — 10.9 million viewers for its first telecast.

And the No. 1 TV story of 2012 was…

1. NBC’s return to No. 1

The premiere of the new drama Revolution, along with the return of The Voice and always trusty Sunday Night Football, helped to propel NBC to first place this fall. It’s also the only broadcaster to post year-over-year ratings gains. Can they hang onto such a nifty lead into the new year? Probably not, but no one likes a Debbie Downer around Christmas time. Happy Holidays!

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Two and a Half Men

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