They pretty much all do it to some extent, but certain shows are clearly written specifically with the emotional manipulation of the audience in mind. They’re trying very openly to make you cry.
Flashpoint: I watched the first couple of seasons of this long ago on Netflix or some other streaming service, but anyways, huge offender here. Every episode starts like a typical police procedural, but in the end the “bad guy” is never really a bad guy, there’s always some huge melodramatic circumstance for why they’re being a dick at the beginning. Everyone in this show has a tragic life.
Cold Case: I describe this show to my wife as the “old people police.” Pretty much the same deal as above, only their perps are almost always elderly, and they go out of their way to throw suspicion at really “bad” characters, but it’s very predictably always one of the “nice,” cooperative witnesses they interview early in the episode. And every single case has some direct or indirect tie-in to something in one of the investigators’ lives, e.g. victim got run over? What do you know, same thing happened to Detective Valens’ wife! Let’s rehash it, shall we?
A prominent feature in both of these shows, that is often a dead giveaway you’re watching one of these shows: at the end of every episode is a “music video” montage epilogue, generally to some sad pop song. Sarah McLachlan is an extremely popular choice for this.
What are some other shows you’ve seen that are heavily into emotional manipulation?