Victim of the Week
Even if you are not going to kill the victim, you still need one. Bad guys need to be bad to a person, and when a villain Kicks the Dog, it is usually this person who acts as the dog. Your hero is not going to look very heroic if he just runs around arresting people for stuff like abuse-of-lawnchair. It is important to establish that the lawnchair was being kept by a saintly old widow as a fond reminder of her beloved, deceased husband. The bereaved widow is now bereft of her lawnchair and is inconsolable. Justice must be done. This lawnchair abuser is going down!
The point being that, due to the compressing nature of having only 42 minutes to do the whole thing, a writer has to find a "sympathy" gong for the victim early and hit it hard. Sometimes subtlety may have to go by the wayside.
If the character is the point-of-view character in the opening, you have Intro-Only Point of View.
- Detective Conan. Even when it's not a murder (which is rare), there's always a kidnapping or robbery (usually leading to murder).
- If you're in the Inuyasha universe, you better pray that your occupation isn't "Random Villager". If it is, chances are you're going to have your soul stolen, get aged rapidly, eaten, decapitated, torn to shreds, ritualistically sacrificed or used as a human shield.
- See almost any episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Most Law and Order spinoffs, particularly Criminal Intent, which starts off with the crime.
- Although a few SVU victims fall into the "aren't dead" category.
- And, of course... CSI.
- NCIS, obviously (although not always dead victims).
- Cold Case also has a victim of the week, but tends to focus on them much more than other shows of its genre.
- Castle features a victim of the week - as is common for any crime procedural or mystery genre show.
- See every last episode of Six Feet Under.
- Murder, She Wrote, Justice, Gunsmoke... at least one commentator has noted that, in the real-life wild-frontier Dodge City, there wouldn't have been enough murders over the course of a few decades to account for one season of Gunsmoke.
- Raines is an interesting case, as he is a homicide detective who would hallucinate the Victim of the Week.
- Every episode of Pushing Daisies with the twist that Ned can raise the dead for a minute and thus can question the week's murder victim. Not that they're always all that helpful.
- Tru Calling used a similar gimmick.
- Harper's Island's entire premise is that there is at least one victim every week.
- Most episodes of Dexter follow the titular character around as he dispatches the victim of the week.
- Almost any episode of any series of Kamen Rider.
- The Ace Attorney series. In all of 'em, somebody's gotta get whacked for there to be an intriguing murder case.
- Subverted in 3-2, where the case in question is actually a theft. Then played straight when a murder actually does occur.
- Similarly, Investigations has a case involving a kidnapping. Not only does a murder occur, but the kidnap is revealed to have been staged.
- Many Magical Girl shows use the less fatal variety of this.
- Sailor Moon is a primary offender: every week a new character with a backstory, an example of how the victim is better than Usagi, and a pure heart to exploit (or whatever the MacGuffin happens to be for that season).
- Ojamajo Doremi uses this about half the time, with the victims mostly chosen from the Ojamajos' classmates and family. Notably, there are Victims but no Monsters Of The Week; the problems are all emotional ones in which the Ojamajos really have no business interfering.
- Shugo Chara does this as well. In just about any episode not dealing with the main villains or overall story, you can count on seeing a kid with an emotional issue or unfulfilled problem, resulting in their Heart's Egg being X'd or ?'d and then cleansed by Amu.
- Heartcatch Pretty Cure has kids with wilting Heart Flowers turned into Destorians (and then combined with an inanimate object to become a Monster of the Week) who the Cures need to purify. Notably, both Erika and Itsuki were Victims who then became magical girls themselves.
- On Burn Notice, the Victim of the Week always gets a caption that says "(Victim Name): THE CLIENT".
- The clients in Leverage fall into this category, too.
- "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team."
- Michael Knight of Knight Rider, as stated in the Series Bible, helps a different person (usually a woman) who is being messed with by bad guys every week.
- Robin Hood has a guest-star in every episode that Robin has to help; usually an oppressed peasant. In the third season, the show gained a Designated Victim in the form of Kate.
- A couple of Kamen Rider series have Monsters of the Week spawn from regular humans, which brings in a Victim of the Week aspect:
- In Kamen Rider Den-O, the monsters are Jerkass Genies who distort peoples' wishes (which are, with perhaps two exceptions, well-intentioned or merely misguided. The Hero, a very compassionate young man, makes helping the Victims as much a priority as fighting the monsters.
- In Kamen Rider OOO, the villains take normal if flawed humans and use their impure desires to make the monsters.
- In Kamen Rider Fourze, the Victims make a Deal with the Devil because they have reasons for wanting power (the first two are resentful towards the school's Jerk Jock and Alpha Bitch). One of the series' central themes is friendship, so the Victims are inevitably forgiven and befriended by Fourze and his team.
- Kamen Rider W has Clients of the Fortnight, as the protagonists operate a detective agency and often the Monster will be the source of their problems.
- The Fall Guy had Stuntman/Bounty Hunter Colt Seavers help out various people in trouble in every episode, with help from his cousin Howie.
- About half the time on Person of Interest, the titular person is someone who is going to be the victim of a violent crime and the protagonists have to intervene before that happens (the rest of the time, the person is someone who's going to commit a crime and they need to figure out who the victim is).