A secondary or Ensemble character gets the primary focus for an episode in an atypical fashion. This can be used to either give various cast members a rest, both for the actor and for the audience or to allow different episodes to be shot simultaneously to save on time or costs. It can also be used to explore the possibility of an expanded role for a recurring or secondary character, or to set up aSpin-Off.
Sometimes the limelight is given to a guest character of note, often a character so outrageous that he/she upstages the regulars, or a nobody with a touching, moving story. This is occasionally done in comedies where the focus is less on the regular characters usual antics and hijinks, and more on the guest character. In such cases, the regular characters may be temporarily demoted to Straight Man status. In some cases, the regular characters are just present either to provide moral support or to be the recipients of An Aesop. Such episodes may be of the Very Special Episode variety and may focus on a serious issue facing the guest character.
While often times this trope only applies to secondary or background characters, in an ensemble cast with fairly equitable time sharing, any episode that shines the spotlight on one particular character can be considered a Limelight Episode even if that character is top billed.
A Hostile Show Takeover is the most extreme version of this trope. If the character or characters getting the Day In The Limelight are very minor, it's a Lower Deck Episode. If it's a villain, then it's a Villain Episode. For this happening within a rock band, see Step Up to the Microphone. If it's a minor mook getting a whole spinoff, it's Breakout Mook Character. Contrast with Day In The Life, A Death in the Limelight. Fanfics frequently do this as well, exploring minor characters to flesh out their backstory and their contribution to the overall story.
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Anime and Manga
Happened in Pokémon: Despite being one of the first Pokémon Ash captured, Krabby spent the entire first season in Professor Oak’s Lab, until the heroes arrived at the Indigo Plateau. Despite Misty and Brock’s concerns about Krabby never being in a fight before, Ash used him in the first round of the Pokémon League, and Krabby turned out to be an incredible fighter, winning the entire round by himself and even evolving into Kingler during the process.
The point of the Chronicles sideseries of Pokémon.
Misty had a mini-series in the Limelight in the Tournament half of the Whirl Islands arc. Notable instances include Brock being a Moment Killer for Misty squeeingover aCorsola and Ash being designated as the "Minor Friendly Rival." A possible justification is that she would leave the show a little over a year later.
Team Rocket got a few episodes starring them, with minimal appearances by the main characters.
Prior to every Pokémon movie, a "Pikachu short" is shown, giving limelight to either Pikachu or the main cast's Pokémon as a whole. Episode 17 of the regular series did something similar.
Right-hand man and perennial background character Kozo Fuyutsuki gets one in Episode 21, The Birth of NERV, where he's interrogated and relates the backstory for the series via his personal history with the major players.
Episode 13, Lilliputian Hitcher, has NERV's head-scientist Ritsuko as its heroine, but the MAGI computer-system is also explored as a character in its own right.
Episode 22, Don't Be, is centered around Asuka's Dark and Troubled Past and her on-going psychological breakdown.
One Piece features "mini-arcs" on the title pages of issues. These detail the fates of villains and minor characters. Only two of them have been animated: Buggy's search for his crew and body and Coby's and Helmeppo's marine training.
Mahou Sensei Negima! has so many main characters, it tends to have limelight chapters/episodes for them between or within major story arcs.
Three of the SlayersSpecial novels (the prequel stories set before the main series) feature stand-alone stories centering around Lina's bodyguard Gourry, the princess Amelia, and the chimera Zelgadiss.
Common in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: In Season 1, Manjyome got his own episode and an abridged Heroic Journey at the North School. Kaiser got his own episode in Season 2, and Sho stepped into the spotlight once in Season 3.
Sometimes, Tokyo Mew Mew padded out its episode count by recycling scripts for different characters. For example, Minto and Zakuro both got 10-Minute Retirement episodes. It also occasionally had episodes more or less focused on relatively minor characters — such as Keiichiro and Masha.
Fullmetal Alchemist spent one episode focusing on the travails of Roy Mustang and his five aides (and Black Hayate◊). The manga (and Brotherhood) generally averted this, as most characters were already actively contributing something to the overall story arc.
Other episodes, and in the subsequent series 2nd Gig, have spotlighted the members of the team who don't usually get it such as Saito and Pazu. Unfortunately, they never got around to fleshing out Borma.
The Idolm@ster - Each of the idols gets their own episode that focuses on them and their issues.
While the vice captains were defending the towers in the Arrancar arc, Ikkaku lampshaded this. When a captain asked if he needed help, he said "No way! This is like the one time where the vice captains get the spotlight!"
After hundreds of chapters as a plot-important but perpetually enigmaticTrickster Mentor, Urahara Kisuke became the focus of a flashback arc set one hundred years prior to the series proper. Other supporting characters prominently featured include: Yoruichi, Tessai, Aizen, Gin and The Vizards.
A second flashback arc to twenty years before the story starts gives the spotlight to Ichigo and Uryuu's parents. Until the Thousand Year Blood War Arc, Isshin and Ryuuken had only minor roles in the story, Masaki's Plot Triggering Death was the only thing we knew about her, and Uryuu's mother had never been mentioned. The flashback makes all four vital to the Myth Arc.
The anime had to produce many Filler episodes without contradicting any manga development while waiting for the main plotline to advance, so it would frequently feature off-duty antics or extended flashbacks for minor characters. Ikkaku, Yumichika, Yachiru, Matsumoto, Don Kanoji, Kon, Ichigo's sisters, and Hitsugaya all have at least one episode dedicated to them in some way.
Haruhi Suzumiya's Yuki Nagato has her spotlight in The Movie (which is based on the fourth book, "The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya"). In fact, it's more of a Hostile Show Takeover, even after that arc. Also, just as the fourth book could be considered Nagato's day in the limelight, the seventh book, "The Scheme of Haruhi Suzumiya," could be considered Mikuru's as well as the earlier chapter "The Melancholy of Mikuru Asahina."
Matsuda and Mikami each get one of these in Death Note. Matsuda's chapter/episode is even named after him.
When Hayate the Combat Butler does these with recurring minor characters, the fact is usually stated enthusiastically by said characters. Sometimes with the main characters complaining that they've been pushed to the sidelines. This is a given since the series has No Fourth Wall.
Zatch Bell! had these episodes from time to time, which usually began with Gash wondering what a particular demon was up to, and cut to said demon doing something interesting. Brago, Ted and Wonrei have had episodes centered around them in this fashion.
Very common in Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!. There are 4 teams of pilots belonging to bases in other countries that occasionally show up to help Goh, Anna, and company. Each of those teams get at least an episode centered mostly around them. Most semi-major characters around the main base get an episode or two dedicated to them as well.
Knuckles and Rouge receive their own episodes early on in Sonic X.
His and Her Circumstances has an episode near the end which focuses on Yukino's two little sisters, Tsukino and Kano, that takes a delightful turn away from the romantic melodrama toward a very light hearted comedy.
About five episodes in Baccano! work as such (although, with three plots going on, nobody gets the episode entirely to themselves), usually indicated by the title with a general statement about the character in question. The most memorable of these episodes is probably "Ladd Russo likes talking a lot and killing a lot"
Revolutionary Girl Utena had a season of this, where every minor character gets their own episode, has their backstory explored, and then has that backstory exploited by the villains in an attempt to destroy Utena.
The Cowboy Bebop episode "Mushroom Samba" was this for Ed (and Ein). "My Funny Valentine" is Faye's episode. "Hard Luck Woman" is a Day in the Limelight for both of them - Spike and Jet only show up to get angry when the girls leave, get beat up by Ed's dad, and hide their sadness when they realize both girls have left the crew.
Very common in Monster. Perhaps at its most extreme with volumes 10-11 of the manga, where Tenma all-but-disappears and Wolfgang Grimmer acts as the main protagonist.
The rest of the Sailor Senshi in Sailor Moon get their share. Minako takes the honours with fifteen episodes centred around her, presumably to make up for not introducing her until the end of the 29th episode. One of these episodes will usually coincide with the relevant girl learning a new attack.
Digimon Adventure and Adventure 02 do this quite a bit. Generally in episodes where one of the Digimon evolves the episode centers around them and their human partner or if said partner finds a crest/Egg which generally goes hand in hand with the evolving bit. There are a lot of main characters which is probably why. Villains tend to get one if they're about to do a Heel-Face Turn ie Gatomon in Adventure and Ken in 02.
In the Ranma ˝ anime, Nabiki and Kuno got a limelight episode when a fortune teller persuaded Kuno that his true love was Nabiki. The usual cast only appeared in three scenes.
The OAV An Akane to Remember is memorable for being set away from the usual Furinkan hijinks. Only Ranma and Akane appear in this story with Ryoga joining them later. The rest of the cast (Genma and the rest of the Tendos) appears only briefly in the beginning where most of them have no lines and the rest of the cast (Kuno et al) don't appear at all. This is a quieter story that focuses more on guests Shinosuke and his grandfather. Ranma and Akane's relationship is explored slightly but mostly in relation to Akane's past acquaintance with Shinosuke. There's no usual "Ranma Baka!" in this story and Ryoga is there mostly to lend moral support.
Future GPX Cyber Formula does this with some of the characters (like Shinjyo, Randoll, Osamu and others) in both the TV series and OVAs. And SIN, the last OVA, focuses on Kaga and his rivalry with Hayato.
Inazuma Eleven did this with Megane in the match versus Shuuyou Meito (episode 9); up until then his main contributions to the team were naming techniques and holding the bench down so it doesn't fly up into the air. While he obviously doesn't get A Death in the Limelight at the end of the episode, he does injure himself in a Heroic Sacrifice where he bounces the ball off his face to redirect it into the goal and score the game-winning point, after which he returns to being a benchwarmer.
Soul Eater has Excalibur's second episode, which is mainly about Ox Ford, and his third, which is about the one-shot character Hiro, and explores what happens when somebody actually manages to wield Excalibur - at least for a few days.
This is a rule of thumb for Golgo 13. In most of the stories, all of the character drama generally revolves around the targets and those who contract the hits. Justifiable since Golgo himself isn't supposed to develop much as a character.
In Gakuen Babysitters, Saikawa gets his own chapter when he has to take care of Kotarou while Ryuuichi is out with his friends.
One of the chapters of Sangatsu No Lion is centered on and narrated by a minor character, Smith, who muses over the preceding chapter's events revolving around the protagonist Rei and later goes up against an antagonistic character Rei's set as his mark in a shogi tournament match.
The third episode of Lite focuses on Kuzuha, back in the day when her big brother Yuuta was still deep in his Dark Flame Master delusion, when she is chaperoned by him while meeting a friend late at night.
Sasameki Koto: Chapter 19 of the manga focused on Tomoe and Miyako.
Danganronpa had a manga which featured every character who died in their own special chapter, immediately before their deaths.
In HunterXHunter, Kurapica is pretty much the main protagonist during the York Shin arc, with Gon and the rest of the main characters helping him get revenge against the Phantom Troupe.
In the Happy Happy Clover anime and manga, sometimes the manga would give one of Clover's friends a story that would focus more on her friends and other forest animals. Some would focus on how they meet and what their lives we're like when they we're very little. For example, one story focused on how Shallot meet Clover and Kale when they we're younger. Shallot didn't want to be friends with Clover and Kale since he cared more about his books. But after an incident where a berry got squished in one page of the books he was reading. He got angry and left them behind, later he felt guilty and decided to be friends with them. In a later volume, one story focused on Kale who learned that his mother was going to have a baby and how he became a big brother when he was young.
In Watchmen, each of the six main characters get an issue in the limelight, which illustrates their backstory and relations with other characters. The Comedian's is in Chapter 2, Dr. Manhattan's is in Chapter 4, Rorschach's is in Chapter 6, Nite Owl II's is in Chapter 7, Silk Spectre II's is in Chapter 9 and Ozymandias' is in Chapter 11. They vary from being an in-depth look at their origins, to showing various important events from their lives, to simply being a way of getting better to know a character. The reason for the inclusion of the issues was the fact that Alan Moore plotted the story for six issues, but was contracted for twelve. So he mixed in six character based issues.
An issue of Legends of the Dark Knight focused on virtually forgotten c-lister "the Spook" after his release from Blackgate penitentiary. He winds up being so paranoid that Batman is stalking him that he commits a crime just to go back to Blackgate where he has peace of mind.
"Mr Freeze": a retelling of his origin with narrated by Freeze himself. Written by Paul Dini, who created the modern Mr. Freeze.
"Scarface: A Psychodrama" focuses on the Ventriloquist as he attempts to go straight and also, creepily, on the puppet that still causes death and pain even without him.
Jim Crowe received one of these in The Invisibles which also doubled as his debut appearance.
Issue #7 of the Ed Brubaker run on Captain America was based entirely around Jack Monroe (the former Bucky ), with Cap only appearing in flashbacks. The issue even tied up some loose ends from Monroe's short-lived Nomad series just before he is murdered by Winter Soldier.
In Sonic X, most of the later issues star Dr. Eggman.
Similarly, Sonic Universe is an entire series devoted to this, as only one storyline has actively involved Sonic and his nakama and that's only because the storyline was a side story itself.
The "Lulu's War mini-arc of Nikolai Dante'' followed Lulu Romanov as she fought to protect Venice from an army of vampires allied to Tsar Vladimir. Dante himself only appeared in a few panels at the very beginning, talking to Lulu.
Similarly, "The Tsar's Daughter" concentrates on Jena Makarov.
Different Spider-Man characters have gotten this treatment over the years. Ordinary supporting cast members, villains, and second-tier heroes who made their debuts in the spider-comics have all been spotlighted in various one-shots and side stories.
The now-cancelled but very excellent "Spider-Man: Tangled Web" series was based on this premise. Only 2 stories actually starred Spider-Man rather than his rogues and supporting cast.
Bill Watterson occasionally did this with Calvin's parents in Calvin and Hobbes, showing everything from Calvin's Dad's ambivalence about American consumer culture to Calvin's Mom's frustrations with shitty customer service.
Every now and then, there's an issue of Fantastic Four that focuses on Franklin Richards.
Several issues and stories over the years have had Doctor Doom as the focus of the story with the Fantastic Four seen only in flashbacks if seen at all.
One Fantastic Four story entitled "The House That Reed Built" featured The Trapster being tracked and finally apprehended by the Baxter Building's automated security.
This is essentially the point of Sonic Universe. It shows what's happening with secondary characters while Sonic is out fighting Eggman in the regular comic.
They tend to play with it, though - the first story arc began with Sonic The Hedgehog, bounced over to the last issue of Sonic X, then picked up in the first issue of Universe. There's also one storyline where Sonic himself is the star (mostly because it was a continuation of a story going on in the main comic.)
Ms Tree: "Roger's Story" gave the spotlight (and some much needed character development) to Roger Freemont, one of Michael Tree's partners in the detective firm.
The My Little Pony Micro Series issues focus on a particular pony (or group of ponies in the case of the Cutie Mark Crusaders), starting with the Mane Six and moving on from there.
Rarity's issue featured a short about Hayseed Turnip Truck of all ponies.
In Creepy #39's "Where Satan Dwells...", a story deconstructing and playing with the role of the comic book Horror Host, Uncle Creepy begins to express disillusionment with simply introducing tales in morbid, pun-filled monologues, instead wishing to star in one of his own. Entering a curiously accommodating little bookstore after hours of wandering, he falls asleep reading a special tome the shopkeeper gives him, and saves the characters of the book's setting from the Evil Overlord in his dreams. Upon waking, he swears off any more adventures, thanks the clerk, and hurries home. (Said clerk happens to be Creepy's rotten relative and rival host, Cousin Eerie, in disguise, who thought it'd be nice to give him a break for once.)
The beloved character Haiba from The Lion King Adventures gets his very own story in Series Five: Haiba's Wish. Simba and Nala don't even appear. This is because Haiba runs away in the story after murdering Tama. He has no intentions of ever returning, until his perspective on things is changed by a mad scientist called Wazimu.
In the French Alternate UniversePokémonFan FicPokemon X Terra, every chapter does this for some character or another. At first, Lucas was the lead, but because there are so many other characters that all have relevance to the plot somehow, and the fact that they all do different things and go at different places from each other, each chapter is split into sub-chapters, focusing on one character/group of characters. And most of the time, one of them gives a chance to the focused character to show what he/she can really do if he/she hasn't been able to prove him/herself before. Somehow subverted with Palmer, whose running gag is that he always want to be useful, but when given the occasion, fails for reasons like showing up when the emergency is already over or simply because his opponent his too powerful for him, which is easy since he himself isn't really a good fighter.
The Harry Potter fandom is so large that for any significant character, there is a complete saturation of limelight fics. No one even thinks of, for example, a Ginny fic as shedding light on her character since she has already been so thoroughly explored in previous fics that every possible interpretation of her has already been used thousands of times. In fact, by now the process is mainly viewed as simply choosing your favorite preexisting interpretation (slut!Ginny, innocent!Ginny, tomboy!Ginny, etc.) and running with it. Even when all that's known about the character is a name, a house and a plot point, expect several fics focusing on them and expanding on what little canon tells us.
There's been fan fiction starring Caradoc Dearborn, a character who is mentioned once as an example of someone who died in the last war. That's it. Multi-chapter fiction.
There exist fics for characters who were never even named in story, but aren't OCs because their names can be spotted on the class list JK hols up in Harry Potter and Me. No house name, no plot point, no canon existence.
There's a person somewhere that's made a detailed backstory for Pauline of all people. Family, profession and what else she does when she's not the Damsel in Distress.
In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Koizumi gets a boost to his powers and gets to defeat a inter-dimensional robot by himself.
In the Hooker Verse, the Original Character club-girls have all got a fic to themselves to deepen their characters. This practice started with "the stars have all faded here", which took a look at Stacey, who had only before been a woman who had a really big crush on The Angry Video Game Nerd.
The Smallville fanfic Stepping Up is an example of this trope. It's part of a series of fics collectively known as the "Sheriff Kent AU" (in a nutshell, Clark Kent is a regular human and the sheriff of Smallville). Most of the fics in the series focus on Clark's adventures, except for "Stepping Up" which focuses on how Clark's deputy Whitney Fordman handles being in charge when Clark is kidnapped.
Mega Man Reawakened has chapters where Roll fights Robot Masters instead of Mega Man. She's taken out Hard Man and Spark Man by herself.
In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Episode 8 is Roll-centric; she even saves the day at the end. Episode 9 is ProtoMan-centric, as he's in command of Wily's army until the finale. Episode 12 focuses on Mr. Black.
Debatable, since the whole point of the play is to show what's going on in the wings; in other words; R&G aren't in the limelight, but the audience isn't looking at what's in the limelight (that being Hamlet) either.
Remnants #13, Survival. Kinda-sorta Recurring Character Tate was friends with Jobs and Mo'Steel and had passages from her POV, but remained firmly in the background until the second-to-last book. She ends up saving the entire world, making the 're-greening' of Earth possible by going back in time and crashing Mother into the Earth, killing herself instantly. Jobs and Echo named their second daughter after her.
But most of Wedge's plotlines don't affect him very much personally. He gets determined and angry at various points, he works to improve morale, he leads and inspires them, he's unhappy when his friends die, but he's the Reasonable Authority Figure and his Character Development is assumed to have taken place beforehand. It's impersonal and he's kind of the generic Good Guy, with occasional flashes of his personality showing. Sometimes a few pages or even scenes are given over to personal things, but his days in the limelight are the comics arc "The Phantom Affair" and the novel "Starfighters of Adumar".
The Tales series of books (Tales of the New Republic, Tales from Jabba's Palace, etc.) take on much of this role, fleshing out many of the minor or background characters from the films (such as Oola, the Twi'lek dancing girl Jabba feeds to the Rancor) or giving supporting EU characters like Mara Jade (pre-NJO) and Kyp Durron something to do without direct involvement of the principle cast as well. Others are unique characters invented for that particular book, but still manage to give the limelight to some aspect of the universe normally not shown in detail.
Mara Jade: By The Emperor's Hand is another Day in the Limelight for Mara. Shadows of the Empire: Evolution was this for Guri, a Human Replica Droid assassin and The Dragon to Prince Xixor.
The Night Huntress World books each dedicate one novel to a different supporting character from the main series.
In Twilight Dragon Princess Atoli, despite Kayari telling this story in first person, has 2 chapters dedicated to her early on in the novel.
The Time Quartet series is primarily about Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, but the 4th book Many Waters gives a day in the limelight to Sandy and Dennys.
The Dresden Files short stories Backup, Aftermath, and Even Hand are told from the perspective of Thomas Raith, Karrin Murphy, and John Marcone respectively.
Each book in the Star Trek: Typhon Pact series focuses on one member state (sometimes two) of the titular Typhon Pact. Many of these nations were previously underexplored or left as minor players in the Star TrekMyth Arc.
There are two significant ones in Warrior Cats. The first is Moonlight, which gives spotlight to Stormfur as he journeys through the mountains. The second is Night Whispers, which is about Flametail struggling to figure out the secrets of a mysterious omen from StarClan, which foretells his death.
Guards! Guards! was planned as one of these (not to a particular series, but to any one that plays city/palace guards as Mooks), but they proved too popular and became Ascended Extras such that a whole arc of stories are devoted to them now. As Mr. Pratchett himself said
"I wanted to give them a spot to shine in the sun, but it turned out to be a full blown tropical vacation."
David Eddings tends to take occasional trips back in sequel series (The Malloreon, which follows the Belgariad, and The Tamuli, which follows The Elenium). Usually just before a significant event, a chapter gets devoted to characters not currently connected with the main plot, showing the things happening to them. Such chapters are usually sectioned off to show various different subplots in the same chapter. A notable example occurs in The Tamuli. A massive order is sent out to assassinate conspirators against the Tamul Empire. One chapter is devoted to a number of those assassins carrying out the order, displaying their various styles and personalities.
A Wreck-It Ralph tie-in storybook set after the events of the film, titled One Sweet Race, centers on Rancis Fluggerbutter, one of the racers who bullied Vanellope in the film. The story reveals to us that Rancis has never been able to win a Sugar Rush race before, and Vanellope, having become friends with Rancis after the movie's events, helps him build a new kart for him to use in the next race.
The House of Night: Professor Lankford, Lenobia and Neferet have their own prequel novellas. Kalona is slated to have one as well.
In the Rainbow Magic series, the Weather Fairies series begins with Kirsty on her own, and the series focuses on her hometown of Wetherbury.
Live Action TV
Happened in Glee: Tina Cohen-Chang, one of the original members of New Directions, had been neglected in terms of storylines and song distribution for nearly three whole years, until the episode “Props”, which was named after the fact that she felt like a prop to the whole glee club. The recap at the beginning of the episode actually went all meta stating how neglected Tina had been.
In the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip episode "The Disaster Show", Matt and Danny don't feature at all. Instead it was a day in the limelight for Cal, the director.
Jack Rudolph, President of the network: "Hope it's a good show!"
Cal, responding to the many disasters happening: "Can't see how [it will be]!"
My Mad Fat Diary: The penultimate episode, "It's a Wonderful Rae: Part I" has a larger than usual focus on secondary character Tix and is partially narrated by her.
Community has done this a few times, with "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" focusing on Abed, "Advanced Gay" on Pierce, and "Football, Feminism and You" being Troycentric.
Perhaps the best example is "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons", which focused equally on Pierce, typically the least-invested character, and Fat Neil, a background character.
While the episode "Lab Rats" brings background lab techs Archie Johnson, Mandy Webster, Henry Andrews, and Wendy Simms to the fore and gives them each some time in the spotlight, the episode is actually A Day in the Limelight for Trace Evidence expert David Hodges. It was, after all, his lucky day.
And was later done again with the Lab Rats in the episode "You Kill Me". Fitting one reason for doing such an episode the actor playing Hodges is now a main character with title credit.
"The Zeppo" from season three, where Xander gets the limelight. He also gets it earlier in "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", and later in "The Replacement", where he's both protagonist and antagonist.
The seventh season had racked up such a huge supporting cast that there was a day-in-the-limelight every other episode, it seemed: "Same Time, Same Place" for Willow, "Selfless" for Anya, "Potential" for Dawn, "Lies My Parents Told Me" for Spike, "Storyteller" for Andrew...
And "Superstar" in season four, which is so Jonathan-centric it even features a new Title Sequence.
"Doppelgangland" in series 3 for Willow, and Giles' "A New Man" in season 4.
The Dream Episode "Restless" gave each of the four main characters a ten-minute dream which focused solely on their characters.
Dawn gets two; "Real Me" in season 5, and "Potential" in season 7.
And "Family", which establishes Tara's backstory and fleshes out her relationship with the rest of the cast.
Seasons 2 and 3 started a great run of episodes in order: "School Hard" helped flesh out Buffy/Joyce's relationship and focused on Spike/Drusilla. "The Dark Age" was one of Giles' first big episodes. "What's My Line Parts 1 & 2" helped flesh out Jenny Calendar. "Phases" for Oz. "Faith, Hope, & Trick" for Faith. "Homecoming" for Cordelia. "Helpless" fleshed out Buffy/Giles' relationship. Not including the prior mentioned episodes like BB&B or Doppelgangland.
Season 3 also has "Amends", which is Angel-centric.
Band Candy was the episode that feature Principle Snyder more than any other, albeit completely out of character. Makes one wonder what happened to him to have messed up him so much.
The X-Files did a number of limelight episodes later in its run, including "Zero Sum" (focused on Assistant Director Skinner, Mulder and Scully's FBI superior), "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man" (the recurring villain and agent of The Conspiracy dubbed "Cancer Man" or "the Cigarette-Smoking Man"), "Unusual Suspects", "Three of a Kind" and "Jump the Shark" (the Lone Gunmen, conspiracy theorist Comic Trio and cohorts of Mulder).
Scrubs has done this on multiple occasions, in the episodes "His Story" (I-IV), "Her Story, (I-II) and "Their Story" (I-II). These episodes feature the inner monologues of characters other than JD, often alluded to in-character with phrases like "Now that I have this tape recorder, I won't need to be in my head as much". They also include a whooshing sound as JD makes physical contact with the focus character right before the voice over switches, as though the ability to narrate is the result of some sort of communicable disease. This also works backwards near the end of the episode, often including similar phrases.
In The Conditions of Great Detectives Fujii has her own episode in the style of a "Two-Hour Suspense" story aimed at middle-aged women with her own opening credits and song.
House had an episode called "Wilson," which revolved around House's beleaguered best friend Wilson, while House and his team's antics gets pushed to the sidelines, with only occasional glimpses at their wacky adventures. "5 to 9" did the same with Cuddy and "Last Temptation", did it for Masters.
Degrassi, "Don't Believe the Hype." This episode took Hazel, who was previously just a flunky for the Alpha Bitch, and revealed her secret: she's a Somali Muslim immigrant who was bullied at her previous school for being a "terrorist." She's been pulling an elaborate Masquerade so the popular girls will accept her. While The Reveal was well-done, it never answered the question of how she got into the in-crowd when she could never let them visit her house. And none of this came up in any other episode, ever again, aside from an offhand comment by Paige in "Holiday". There's rarely a time when one character is focused on in two consecutive episodes outside two parters.
The season 12 two parter, Never Ever was Imogen's first, and so far only, main plot. It introduced her family life and divulged heavily into it as well. It was followed up somewhat in a subplot later on, but was mostly from the point of view of Imogen's girlfriend, Fiona. Earlier in the season, we had Got Your Money, which focused on Zig's home life, who had been shafted as merely the object of affection for Tori and Maya until that point, and ever since he's been playing the same role as before.
Also, Season 7's Got My Mind Set On You was the only time Danny and Derek EVER received a main plot (and one of the few times they had a storyline period). A few episodes later, Snake gets a main plot in Another Brick in the Wall. Another couple of episodes later, Anya takes the lead in Ladies' Night and she wasn't even a main character at that point.
Nothing to Fear featured LD, who had only made minimal appearances in the series at that point, struggling with the fact that her dad was in the hospital.
Eggbert showed Shane struggling with Spike's pregnancy. Every other plot relating to the baby was from Spike's point of view.
Despite being a major character, Snake's first real, non-Zit Remedy storyline wasn't until the season 3 episode He Ain't Heavy. He wouldn't have the focus of an episode again until the second to last episode of the series.
Diana seemingly came out of nowhere (well, she was in the background but no one really noticed) with Little White Lies, where she sneaked out of her house, went to a party, drank, smoked, got detention and was grounded, because she didn't want to go to night classes at Greek school.
Most of the episodes featuring the twins were from Erica's point of view, except for Just Friends, where Heather was FINALLY interested with someone who wasn't interested in Erica. Unfortunately, Wheels wasn't exactly interested in Heather either. But this storyline also took place during the long running storyline where Erica had an abortion (which wasn't even brought up) so it was nice to see Heather getting some focus.
Liz gets one with Crossed Wires, which finally reveals why she seems like such a man hater (but she has VERY good reasons).
Happens at least once a season on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, when Stabler and Benson, the lead detectives, step aside and allow the secondary team of Munch and Fin to be the primary focus of the episode, or the time when Fin got an episode to himself.
Sometimes the episode starts fairly near to the end of the "Law" section, and the majority of the episode is the "Order", as the ADAs run around Manhattan trying to scare up witnesses. This is far less common than it was on The Mother Ship.
Melinda Warner has a minor day in the limelight in "Blast".
JAG was known for giving each of the supporting characters an episode of their own once a season.
Subverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks" where one guest character, who'd appeared in a single episode in an earlier season, was the focus of the show. It seemed to be setting her up as a recurring character, right up to the point where she dies at the end.
It was originally planned that the character would return on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but the writers decided that would "diminish" the ending of "Lower Decks".
The modern Star Trek series all have had limelight episodes for various characters, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the clear champion in this category thanks to its large cast of secondary, minor, and recurring characters. By the end of the series the recurring villains were getting as much screen time and focus on their problems and schemes as the heroes were.
Star Trek: Voyager took this to an extreme with an episode devoted to Lt. Barclay, who was not even on the Voyager and inhabited a different sector of space. The episode revolves around Barclay attempting to make contact with the distant Voyager, and the main cast doesn't even appear until the last act of the episode.
Then there was the episode concerning the silver blood clones of Voyager and crew. Turns into a Tear Jerker when it's learned they're losing cohesion and basically about to die just as they're about to meet the real thing...and none of the real Voyager crew even knew of their existence.
Timeless could be considered "the Harry Kim episode."
Tuvok gets a few, but Gravity, was probably his main one.
Barge of the Dead was probably the main B'Elanna show, but there was also Day of Honor covering her and Tom's relationship, and "Faces" and "Lineage" about her Klingon/Human issues. She also had "Dreadnought" and "Prototype" to show off her engineering chops.
Neelix had "Jetrel," "Fair Trade," "Mortal Coil," and "Homestead."
Icheb, otherwise very much a minor character introduced in the sixth season, had "Child's Play" and "Imperfection".
LOST, despite having a huge main cast, has (almost) every episode focus on one character. Some notable episodes that focus on recurring characters who don't usually get their own episodes include:
"S.O.S", which focused on Rose & Bernard.
"Live Together, Die Alone", which focused on Desmond, who was made a main character next season.
"Exposé", which focused on Nikki and Paulo, who were meant to be major in the series' arc and were billed as main characters, but instead ended up being universally despised and only appeared in about five episodes each before dying in this episode.
"The Incident", though containing flashbacks from almost every living character, focused on Jacob and also featured a Ilana flashback (both characters were also the focus of one of the episode's two plotlines).
"Ab Aeterno", considered by most to be one of the series' greatest episodes, is the long-awaited flashback episode of Richard. About 85% of the episode takes place in the past, specifically 1867.
"Across the Sea" is focused on Jacob and the Man in Black, two important guest stars, and features no regular cast members outside of stock footage.
Once Upon a Time follows the same format as LOST (obviously due to being created by the same producers) and has every episode focus on one character, some on minor and one episode characters, which include:
"Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" focusing on Sidney Glass (The Magic Mirror)
"Dreamy" which focuses on Leroy (Grumpy)
"Red-Handed", a notable example which focuses on Ruby (Red Riding Hood) where it was revealed that she is a werewolf
"In the Name of the Brother" which focuses on Dr. Whale ( Dr. Frankenstein)
"The Miller's Daughter", which focuses on Cora (The Queen of Hearts)
"Ghostfacers", which featured two characters from a first season episode and their friends. Fans either loved it or loathed it.
"The Rapture", told the backstory of Castiel's vessel.
The Impala gets flashbacks and a backstory in "Swan Song".
In Season 6, Bobby Singer gets one of these, aptly titled, "Weekend at Bobby's" (also a Shout-Out, as the episode titles often are). It focuses on what Bobby does when he's not helping Sam and Dean, and how that actually interferes with his life. The episode also wraps up the minor Story Arc about selling his soul to Crowley to help save the world.
"Death's Door" is also Bobby-centric.
"The Man Who Would Be King" is about Castiel, and narrated from his point of view.
"Apointment In Samarra" is one for the Reapers, as Dean learns exactly what the Psychopomps of his reality have to deal with every day.
Babylon 5: Given the show's ongoing Myth Arc, and the Loads and Loads of Characters, the lesser recurring characters all had ongoing B-plots rather than eps of their own, but they occasionally still happened: Vir was the center of "Sic Transit Vir", for example. Sometimes the combination of a Limelight episode and the Myth Arc would have odd results, such as "Grey 17 Is Missing", a Garibaldi-centric Monster of the Week A-Plot with a B-Plot about Minbari politics that was far more important. Lampshaded at the end of the episode when Garibaldi tries to explain his absence to the Captain and tells him that he'll fill him in on the details later.
Season 5, episode 4, "A View From the Gallery" is an entire episode focusing on two janitors trying to go about their job while the station is under attack. P.s. it's a DAMNED good episode of the show.
Torchwood had perhaps several of these - "Cyberwoman" for Ianto, "Greeks Bearing Gifts" for Tosh, and in season two, "A Day in the Death" for Owen. Of course, this was after he died. But it was also before he stopped moving.
"The Sensorites" allows Susan, normally relegated to Distressed Damsel while the Hero Ball would be passed between the more dynamic Ian and Barbara, the opportunity to save the day with amazing Psychic Powers she'd never shown before and would never get to show again.
HRG gets another one in "Cold Wars" while both Tracey and Sylar are going to be getting a few in Volume 4. And "The Year of Our Lord" focused more or less entirely on Peter/Future Peter. ("Five Years Gone" did the same for Hiro/Future Hiro.)
The episode "Hey, Look Me Over" centers on Nurse Kellye, who's usually strictly a background character. That's actually a rather nice story...actress Kellye Nakahara's "Nurse Kellye" had more appearances and lines over the years than any of the other nurse characters (strictly bit parts, though), and she was well-liked by the cast. Alan Alda felt she deserved an episode where she could really shine, and surprised her with the script for "Hey, Look Me Over."
"Dear Sigmund", which is told from the point of view of psychiatrist Sidney Freedman, a recurring guest character.
There's also the other "Dear" episodes, when not told by Hawkeye, technically.
Depending on whether you consider Hawkeye to be the show's lead character or just one part of the ensemble, than any number of episodes centering on the other regulars - Margaret, Radar, Father Mulcahy, etc. - could be regarded as this.
Hawkeye himself gets one in the season 4 episode "Hawkeye", where he's the only one of the main characters to appear in the entire episode.
In 3.14 "The Woman King", Helo investigates a potential murder among civilian refugees.
In 3.16 "Dirty Hands", Chief Tyrol becomes the focus of a labour dispute.
Power Rangers RPM features 5 episodes named after the title characters ("Ranger [color]"), as well as their mentor, Dr. K. Each elucidates a character's backstory. Dillon, Ranger Black, does not have his own episode, attributable to Laser-Guided Amnesia.
Though Dillon's character episodes are more or less the two first, where he's made to choose between becoming a ranger, or jail. And a bunch of episodes trying to solve his amnesia.
The original season finale would have been called Ranger Black and featured the truth about his past. However due to a change in staff this never came to pass. He would have been the final boss.
Each episode of Skins focuses on a particular member of the cast, with each cast member getting an episode (or sometimes two) to themselves each season.
Band of Brothers. Each of the 10 episodes focuses on a specific character to some degree. The lead is Lt/Capt/Maj Winters who is in the limelight for episodes 2, 5, and 10. The other episodes focus on (1) Capt. Sobel, (3) Pvt. Blithe (a case of A Death in the Limelight), (4) Sgt. Bull Randleman, (6) "Doc" Roe, (7) Sgt. Lipton, (8) Pvt. Webster, and (9) Capt. Nixon. If the episode has narration, it's by the character in the limelight from their Point of View.
Blake's 7 gives Vila a chance to shine in "City at the Edge of the World".
In the Remember WENN episode "The Ghost of WENN," it is revealed that the ghost is actually CJ, who's miffed at being ignored by the main cast.
During the 70s, there were two versions of the TV game show Pyramid: The daytime network version (First, The $10,000 Pyramid; later, The $20,000 Pyramid), and a nighttime syndicated version (The $25,000 Pyramid), with two different hosts — Dick Clark and Bill Cullen, respectively — who would often appear as acelebrity guest on the other's version to help the contestants win money.
Firefly has a few such episodes: "Jaynestown," where the plot centers on Jayne, "War Stories" explores the dynamics of Wash and Zoe's marriage, all of "Ariel" is a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Simon, and "Objects in Space," which lets the viewer inside River's head.
The Stargate SG-1 episode "The Other Guys" focuses on the scientists who usually are just background characters.
Stargate Atlantis had "Sunday". The episode is unusual in it isn't made clear who the story is about until the end when Carson Beckett dies.
In The West Wing, C.J. Cregg has a few episodes devoted to her, such as season 4's "The Long Goodbye" and season five's "Access."
The episode where Buddy is making a full scale NASCAR car cake away from the bakery. While Buddy obviously has the bigger and cooler job, Mauro, Buddy's assistant, is in charge of the bakery and get to be the star of his half of the hour long episode (it was split between Buddy and Mauro more or less evenly, with Buddy getting a tiny bit more time). This in effect gives Mauro his own episode in Buddy's role, leading the cake team make a cake for a client he met with and narrating the segment.
One episode gave the spotlight to Cousin Anthony for his 21st birthday, and another one to head baker Joey on whether he'd leave the bakery or not. Not as much as the first example, but a change from the usual.
Co-host Vanna White played one round for charity at the end of a 1989 episode, with host Pat Sajak turning the letters.
During a week of episodes in November 1996, Pat had laryngitis for the entire taping session. His condition was so bad that come Thursday's Bonus Round, he turned the letters and Vanna "hosted" for him.
A year later, Pat and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek traded places and hosted each other's shows on April Fools' Day. Pat and Vanna also played that day's Wheel (with Pat's wife, Lesly, turning the letters) and won over $50,000, which they split between two charities.
And in early 2011, the show held a contest which allowed one home viewer to take Vanna's place for two rounds. The winner appeared on the March 24 episode.
Sitcom Greek's Beaver is one of the most prominent secondary characters, yet nothing was known about him except that he got his nickname for biting a chair while drunk, that's until the final season where he gets an episode titled "all about beave" where his motivations, his background, his day-to-day living and his real name are revealed.
The Ultraman episode "Human Specimen 5.6" was centered largely around Captain Muramatsu's efforts to combat and escape aliens who had infiltrated a scientific facility. Sort of ruined by the requisite Ultraman/Monster of the Episode fight.
On Hogan's Heroes, Kinch was often involved in plots requiring technical/radio work, but since the color of his skin would be a bit noticeable trying to impersonate a WW2 German official, he didn't get as many "dress up" plots as the rest of the cast. One exception involved him capturing and impersonating an African royal trying to ally himself with the Axis forces, complete with a Girl of the Week.
The White Collar episode "As You Were" focuses on Jones, who's normally the junior FBI agent who sits in the surveillance van.
One episode of Doctors was all about Julia alone in her house dealing with her mental degeneration; all the other characters only appeared in her hallucinations.
Breaking Bad episode "Hermanos" (Season 4, Episode 8) focuses on Gus, which fleshes out his character as well as giving a backstory to his relations with the Cartel, especially Hector / Tio.
At the beginning of series 5, we start to see a lot more focus on Mike, who had previously just been a tool for whomever was hiring him at the time.
In Highlander, Duncan MacLeod had a greatly reduced presence in the final season. Most of these were Poorly Disguised Pilots for new Immortals, but the penultimate episode, "Indiscretions," gave Methos and Joe Dawson their own story.
The season 7 How I Met Your Mother episode "Symphony Of Illumination" seemed to be this, similar to the Scrubs examples above: unlike every single previous episode, it begins with Future!Robin narrating the episode to her future kids, rather than Future!Ted narrating it to his own.
"Something Borrowed" was Lily and Marshall-centric, and any episode involving his father is a day in the limelight for Barney.
As Zachary Levi was busy preparing the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the Leftovers", most of "Chuck Versus Phase Three" focused on Sarah.
While Auggie's role is probably Covert Affairs second largest, the action always directly follows Annie, with Auggie acting as her Mission Control. Except in the season 2 episode "Half a World Away", which switches those roles.
An episode in the waning season of Moonlighting gave Agnes and Herbert an episode to themselves and a case to solve, playing out approximately like a first-season episode as a welcome respite from watching David and Maddie hash out their relationship problems.
A more obvious episode is "North by North Dipesto", which is entirely about Agnes Dipesto.
Fringe gave us two of these in Season 4: "Everything in Its Right Place" for Lincoln, and "Making Angels" for Astrid.
Of course, the fans who had been longing to see both Lincolns share the screen probably regretted it when the episode resulted in Alt-Lincoln being shot and killed.
Doesn't happen all that often in Merlin but Elyan does get a couple. One occurs near the end of season 4 when he is Brainwashed and Crazy by a ghost and plays a vital role in starting peace between Arthur and the Druids. The other happens mid-season 5 and is actually A Death in the Limelight.
In The Vampire Diaries "Brave New World" centers on Caroline and her becoming a vampire. The appropriately named "Katerina" is about Katherine's backstory.
On Police, Camera, Action! the episode "Jacked & Cloned" mainly focused on the Greater Manchester Police, and the episode "ASBO Drivers" was this for two forces: Greater Manchester Police and South Yorkshire Police. Later on in the series, "Moto Mania" was this for the South Yorkshire Police, most of the British footage was from that county - aside from two Midlands clips, a Texan police clip, an Ohio Police clip, a Cambridgeshire Police chase of a learner motorbike rider (dubbed the "learner from hell") and a Metropolitan Police motorbike chase.
Punky Brewster would allow her pals to bask in their own episodes. Allen's episode would be his final one ("Divorce, Anderson Style" which had a Downer Ending).
Miami Vice had the episode in the first season "Made for Each Other" which focused on Zito and Switek, and the second season episode "Bushido" on Castillo.
Subverted in the American Gothic episode "The Beast Within", in which the usually ineffective Minion with an F in Evil Ben Healey has to step up to save everyone, good and bad, from his psychotic brother. It turns out Lucas organised the whole thing to manipulate him.
Season 7 of Murdoch Mysteries had two; the Girls Night Out episode "Friday the 13 1901", in which a Closed Circle meant Dr Odgen had to play detective, and "Kung Fu Crabtree" in which, as the title suggests, Constable Crabtree took the lead, because Murdoch was caught up in a Story Arc related B-plot.
The Auto Exchange magazine did this in mid-2001, when the Northwest inc. Liverpool, Warrington, Wirral (later renamed to MERSEY EDITION) had an issue with mostly advertisers from Greater Manchester, with only pages 2-4 and the final pages and back cover being Merseyside / Cheshire advertisers - is this a Limelight Magazine?
Similarly, the Staffordshire, Cheshire & Shropshire had an edition in February 2008 which mainly focused on Stoke-on-Trent advertisers, in the Tunstall and Burslem areas.
Same for a South Yorkshire edition in mid-August 2005 which focused mainly on Barnsley and Rotherham - Sheffield, Worksop and Doncaster was Demoted to Extra and Out of Focus for this issue.
The Auto Trader magazine (North London & East of England, now merged into Central England edition) had mainly North London advertisers (and Marlow, Buckinghamshire) with the East of England advertisers and private ads making few appearances that week in 2010. In fact, only about 10% of the magazine had adverts in East of England (Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire) with North London and Buckinghamshire making up the other 90% of them. It wasn't even promoted as a special issue, but the title's irony wasn't lost on readers.
Hello! Project members sometimes only get to lead a single once. An example is Morning Musume`s Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago, but there are plenty more.
"I Drive Myself Crazy" is one of the few *NSYNC songs where someone other than Justin or JC sings the lead-in (in this case, it's Chris.)
Most early Queen albums had two or three songs sung by Roger Taylor or Brian May instead of Freddie Mercury. Taylor's "I'm In Love With My Car", the B-side of "Bohemian Rhapsody", is probably the most famous of the bunch. That or Brian May's "39" from the same album.
Rammstein's cover of The Ramones' song "Pet Sematary" was sung by keyboardist Flake Lorenz instead of singer Till Lindemann.
"Such a Shame" from The Bee Gees' 1968 album Idea, written and sung by Vince Melouney, is the only song on a Bee Gees album not written or sung by a Gibb.
The Wings songs by people other than Paul McCartney. Denny Laine had a small handful of songs, Jimmy McCulloch had two ("Medicine Jar" and "Wino Junko"), and Joe English had one ("Must Do Something About It").
"Marigold" by Nirvana has Dave Grohl (before he became a well known frontman with Foo Fighters) sing lead and take over guitar duties (and contrary to popular belief, Dave still plays drums, not Kurt Cobain.
And, in turn, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins sings "Cold Day in the Sun" instead of Dave Grohl.
The Beach Boys' God Only Knows was originally A Day in the Limelight for Carl Wilson on lead vocals. Carl eventually became a much more frequent lead singer from this moment on.
The Basics are all singers, mostly with Kris and Wally taking lead, but on their second album Stand Out/Fit In they specifically put in their cover of "Have Love Will Travel" which has Tim take lead
The Edge has sings lead vocals on three U2 songs: "Seconds," "Van Diemen's Land," and "Numb." Bassist Adam Clayton makes a vocal appearance on b-side "Endless Deep", and recites a spoken word verse on "Your Blue Room" for the Passengers side project.
Gene and Paul sing almost all of KISS' songs. However, one of the few songs Peter Criss sang was one of their biggest hits, "Beth".
He also sings such favorites as "Hard Luck Woman" and "Black Diamond"
Ace Frehley also had his moments in the limelight, including "Shock Me", "Rocket Ride" and "2000 Man", not to mention his solo hit, "New York Groove".
Although KMFDM has always had multiple regular singers and sometimes a handful of guests on each of their albums, "The Problem" stands out for having backup singer Dorona Alberti sing the lead while lead singers Sascha and En Esch sing backup.
Tom Petty, on some tours, would let one of the other Heartbreakers sing. You can see this on the 1992 VHS "Take the Highway."
On the 1981 Never Say Die album, bass player Mark Kelly shares lead vocals with regular front man Greg X. Volz on the song "I Can Be Friends With You". Kelly sings the verses while Volz sings the chorus.
1997's Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus featured rock legends John Schlitt (formerly of Head East and current Petra lead singer), John Elefante (Kansas), and Lou Gramm (Foreigner) splitting lead vocal duties on the album's title track, "We Need Jesus".
On Double Take released in 2000, lead guitarist Pete Orta sings "Breath In", a song he wrote.
Indie RPG "Primetime Adventures" (where you play as the protagonist of a TV series) plays this trope straight, even inserting it in the rules: each "Protagonist" has a "Spotlight Episode" in which he's more likely to overcome obstacles and the plot is centered on him/her.
An interesting variation in Big Finish Doctor Who's "The Maltese Penguin", which is - on paper - a "Doctor-lite episode" featuring the Doctor only as a Drop-In Character in a few brief scenes, while most of the action centres on obscure Expanded Universe companion Frobisher trying to solve a mystery without the Doctor's help. However, one of the conceits of the story is that Frobisher has assumed the form of the Sixth Doctor for most of it, meaning that the role of Frobisher is played by Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker, with Frobisher's usual voice actor providing Frobisher's internal monologue.
In General: Gaiden Games tend to take this idea and run with it, for obvious continuity reasons.
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen has 5 chapters — 4 of which are Days In the Limelight for the various henchmen and side-characters that join you in chapter 5.
Luigi's Mansion was Luigi's second day in the limelight. His first was 8 years earlier in the educational game Mario is Missing!! Then again, that one might be closer to a blacklight.
On the subject of Luigi, all three of the Super Mario Bros.. cartoons had an episode starring him. One of them ("Life's Ruff") didn't even have Mario or any other main characters besides Hip and Hop Koopa appear.
The Nintendo Adventure Books, Leaping Lizards and Koopa Capers also had Luigi on a solo adventure (and a later book, The Crystal Trap, featured Zelda as the main protagonist out to save Link).
Even Bowser gets in on the action. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has Bowser as the main protagonist. He's forced to take back the Mushroom Kingdom from Fawful (with aid from the Mario Brothers, who spend most of the game inside his body futzing around with his internal systems to occasionally power up the big lug) and takes a massive Level In Badass as he reluctantly becomes the hero.
In New Super Mario Bros. 2, The Koopalings act as the main antagonists for the entire game. Even though Bowser acts as the final boss, he does not appear at all before then, and the Koopalings enchant him in order to actually kick things off.
Final Fantasy VI has this in the World of Ruin - Relm's painting, Gau's father, Strago and Hidon, Cyan's Dream, Locke and Celes in the Phoenix Cave... every main character in the game gets a subquest which explores their backstory and wraps it up.
In Sonic Heroes, each of the four teams gets an arc, so many of the characters (notably all of Team Chaotix, who hadn't been seen since Chaotix, mentioned above) get far more focus than in their other appearances.
If you purchase both episodes of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 on the same device, a bonus episode will be unlocked that features Metal Sonic as the main character. The episode itself follows what happen after his defeat in Sonic CD.
Valkyria Chronicles has a DLC where the story focuses on 6 of the minor characters in the game. It focuses primarily on Edy, a very popular character in Japan.
Daxter focused on Daxter rescuing Jak from his two-year imprisonment and him defeating Kor's Dragon.
Secret Agent Clank let's you play the sidekick from the Ratchet & Clank series of games.
Dragon Age: Origins has the DLC "Leliana's Song'', which focuses on party member Leliana during her days as an Orlesian spy.
Mass Effect 2 features a level late in the game where you control Joker.
The loyalty missions are limelight episodes too. To have the best chance of success, you want to do all of them which means each one of your squad mates will have at least one episode of Character Focus.
The third Marl Kingdom title (never released in the U.S., due to the low sales of Rhapsody) was essentially a collection of different characters getting time in the limelight. One event in particular sets up one of the characters from La Pucelle Tactics.
A borderline case being the Asagi Wars mode of Prinny 2, as well as Asagi Mode in the original. While Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? is, in itself, a day in the limelight for the titular ensemble darkhorses, each of those alternate modes focus on Asagi (with Asagi Wars actually finally having her in the role of main protagonist).
In Raam's Shadow expansion for Gears 3 you get to play as Raam or any other Locust following him (If you play co-op), during his missions.
Touhou Hisoutensoku has three main characters, each with individual stories. Sanae had previously been both a major character and a playable character, but until then Cirno and Hong Meiling were insignificant minor characters, surprising everyone with their presence. And then with Great Fairy Wars Cirno got her own game!
Randar/Lander who has made cameo appearances in several Compile games before, eventually got his own game.
Putt-Putt and Pep's Dog on a Stick had you controlling Putt-Putt's dog Pep instead of the titular character.
Freddi Fish and Luther's Water Worries has Freddi's sidekick Luther as the main playable character. The only way to play as Freddi is in two-player mode.
Portal 2 has a new DLC level editor that comes with a mini-storyline involving Cave Johnson sending you through multiple dimensions to build and test new test chambers. Cave discovers a multiverse of alternate Caves, and squares off with his Evil Twin, Dark Cave, before sending you to find a dimension of pure money.
Rule of Rose: The game in general focuses on Jennifer, but Eleanor, Diana, Meg and Amanda get significant focus in a chapter each, which throws their particular damage into the spotlight. Wendy receives focus as the only other character during The Gingerbread House, and then again when she outs herself as The Chessmaster.
The Dreamer has short stories which serves as these, with two revolving around Nathan Hale and Freddy Knowlton, respectively.
Homestuck's Act 5 Act 1 focused exclusively on the trolls, who up until that point had been heard from a fair bit but rarely seen.
After Scratch smashes his scrap-book, each of the sprites get a little focus, Nannasprite finds Dad's bloody hat and relates her backstory, Davesprite and Jadesprite meet up and deploy a sword, and Jaspersprite talks to Nepeta about love and foreshadows the Alpha session.
Expanded in the new Paradox Space site, where everyone seems to be getting their day to shine.
In El Goonish Shive, the Bringing Silly Back arc seems to be his for secondary character Noah. Also, Justin gets a lot more attention in this arc than previous ones.
In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there were stories that focused on the support staff of this or that hero team, on bystanders to superheroic battles, on journalists reporting on super-battles, and so on.
Most memorably, in the Hyperion Academy campaign, there were six player characters, but over twenty non-player character students at the school. Every one of the non-player students was featured in a story.
The King of Town's Very Own Quite Popular Cartoon Show in Homestar Runner. Initially subverted in that when it was originally released, it was just a well-disguised Strong Bad Email, but they actually released one a year later. There's also No Hands on Deck, which is fanservice to those who think Strong Bad is hogging Homestar's spotlight (not only does neglected Pom Pom appear, but Strong Bad doesn't appear at all).
A Folky Tale is the only story centered around Strong Sad and Coach Z (who rarely have anything to do with each other). It's one of the very few toons on the site where neither Homestar Runner nor Strong Bad shows up anywhere.
Ferr of the Freelance Astronauts recently got to do a live webcast all by himself on the day of his birthday, choosing to deliver a very surreal LP of Civilization IV, in a narration style bordering on that of Bob Ross. Quite funny
In Episode 3, Lemmy Koopa and a few other minions where the stars.
In Episode 9, The Karate Duo #1 are the stars.
In the Whateley Universe, there are over a dozen canon authors, so this is becoming typical. There has been a story on the side character The Grunts (the superpowered kids who are in a version of JROTC and plan to go into military service); one with them, plus Folder, plus one of the school sociopaths; a Combat Final featuring a student who's the daughter of a notorious supervillain, ...
All the special combat finals vignettes that aren't part of the main character stories. Except Aquerna's, because her story was so popular she now has an ongoing novel and she has probably graduated to 'protagonist'.
In Arenas, some episodes are centered on characters which aren't called Doom.
The Interlude chapters in Worm each switch to the POV from the protagonist to some other character, with the level of relevance to the current storyline varying depending on the character, but each Interlude is woven into the overall Myth Arc of the setting. Each plot arc ends with one, but the author writes extra such as donation bonuses.
The Nephew Arc (Episodes 4, 5 and 6) of Ducktalez focus on the nephews and puts Vegeta and Scrooge out of focus.
Dexter finally manages to one-up Dee Dee in the episode "sdrawkcaB".
"Paper Route Bout" stars Dee Dee, and Dexter doesn't appear.
Their parents would also get episodes like this entitled, appropriately enough A Dad Cartoon and A Mom Cartoon. They also get similar treatment in episodes like "Dad is Disturbed" and "World's Greatest Mom".
In a real-life example, a kid named Tyler Samuel Lee won a contest that aired an episode he wrote, entitled "Dexter and Computress Get Mandark".
Mandark gets an episode like this in "Sun, Surf and Science", in which he competes in a surfing contest to impress Dee Dee, using science to create his own surfboard and to sabotage the contest with mines and robotic sharks. Dexter, incidentally, does not appear in this episode at all.
Mandark would later get a whole set of episodes focusing on him, like "A Mandark Day" or "A Boy Named Sue".
The Simpsons episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" gave a ton of minor characters vignettes of their own. Professor Frink is late, and can only manage to belt out his planned theme song ("Professor Frink, Professor Frink, he makes you laugh, he makes you think...").
Most of the Loads and Loads of Characters in The Simpsons have had their day in the limelight, most times more than once. Usually these take the form of "minor character has some kind of problem and needs to stay with the Simpsons temporarily", like with Groundskeeper Willie, Gil, and Otto the Bus Driver. Even the Crazy Cat Lady got a B-plot of her own. We are still waiting for episodes centric on Disco Stu, the Sea Captain, the Bumblebee Man, Moleman, and many many others though.
"The Beach" explored the dynamics between Zuko, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee and what makes them tick cleverly disguised as a Beach Episode.
"The Boiling Rock" sets up the friendship of Sokka and Zuko and has them breaking in and out of the Fire Nation's most secure prison. It's all kinds of badass.
The third quarter of season 3 had one episode for each character sharing this trope with Zuko. Toph even lampshades this in the finale, noting that she hasn't had her own "life-changing field trip" with him.
"The Tales of Ba Sing Se" consists of six short tales focusing on one character (or two, in one tale) each, including the tales of Toph and Katara, Iroh and of Momo.
Mai gets her own short comic in the limelight called Rebound.
Happens a lot in Adventure Time. The show is quite fond of having otherwise Plucky Comic Relief characters getting their chance to shine. This has been done with Tree Trunks ("Tree Trunks", "The Apple Thief", "Dream of Love"), Lumpy Space Princess ("The Monster", "Gotcha!"), BMO ("BMO Noire"), Magic Man ("Sons of Mars"), and the Earl of Lemongrab ("You Made Me!"). Even Jake's tail has its own episode ("Sad Face").
"Thank You" takes the Snow Golem, who pretty much only appeared in one or two background shots, and tells a story about it going to the Fire Kingdom to return a lost Fire Wolf cub to its family. "I Remember You" is a TearJerkery episode focusing on Marceline and Ice King's historytogether. "Mystery Dungeon" starred Ice King, Tree Trunks, Shelby, Earl of Lemongrab, and NEPTR.
Hey Arnold! deserves props for having several stories where a secondary character is spotlighted ("Timberly Loves Arnold" with Gerald's younger sister and "Career Day" with the neighborhood ice cream man, for example).
Codename: Kids Next Door also did this with "Op TRAINING", focusing on Numbuh 2's younger brother, Tommy, going through training at the KND Arctic base, without the regulars appearing at all. In fact, the only other character who had appeared in a previous episode was the villain, Father.
Tommy also has G.R.A.D.U.A.T.E.S. where all of the titular characters have been turned into animals with some locked up by Father and D.U.C.K.Y. where Numbuh 2 is the only titular character to appear and only appears at the beginning.
L.U.N.C.H. focused on Lizzie.
C.A.K.E.D.-F.I.V.E. had Numbuh 86 share the spotlight with Sector V.
F.L.U.S.H. focuses on the Toiletnator where Sector V doesn't show up until the last minute.
The G.I. Joe example is marvellously parodied in a Robot Chicken episode - angry that he's left out of all of the missions because his white costume is too noticeable in a jungle environment, Snowjob is called up by the "President of Switzerland" to help flush out some yeti in the Swiss Alps. After a transport montage include ski-sleds, dog sleds, and tobogganing, it turns out the yeti claim was a hoax for the normal G.I. Joes to throw snowballs at and mock Snowjob (they apologise to him and give him a job after all- shoveling snow from around the base afterwards).
What Its Like Being Alone often got up to this sort of thing over its mercifully short run, and, if "Sammy's Episode" was anything to go by, was well aware of it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The 2003 series had an episode entitled "Hun on the Run", centering around Shredder's minion Hun. Although the Turtles also appear, Hun is the main focus of the episode, giving hints as to his background.
Season 5's Legend of the Five Dragons for the Ninja Tribunal and Tengu Shredder. The turtles noticeably have only a couple of minutes worth of screen time.
In Back to the Sewers, The Incredible Shrinking Sterling, focuses on well...Sterling along with the toddler turtles.
Season 3's secret origin part 2 focused on April, Casey, and Splinter trying to rescue the turtles who are being held captive by Bishop.
The Pucca television series has several of these. The one for Santa Claus is probably the most notable, solely for establishing the... unique character history that he was a former ninja thief that, after realizing it was wrong to steal things out of people's houses, decided to use his skill in stealth and infiltration for bringing presents into people's houses instead.
The Goth Kids get half of "The Ungroundable" (the other subplot belonging to Butters), and then all of "Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Poseurs," which focuses entirely on them and their sworn enemies, the Vampire Kids. This episode is notable for giving them their own version of the theme song and finally revealing all of their names.
"Lice Capades" is about Clyde and the lice who live in his hair. In a way making him the protagonist kind of serves as a Red Herring to the ending, since all the other kids have lice too.
There's also "A Million Little Fibers," which focuses on Towelie promoting his memoirs on The Oprah Winfrey Show. No other regular characters appear. Towelie also gets a major subplot in "Crippled Summer".
While Kim Possible is the main character of the series, the sidekick Ron Stoppable gets many episodes focusing on him while leaving Kim as a background character. One of the worst examples of this is the episode where Ron goes to a Japanese Ninjutsu school where he meets a cute girl, learns Kung Fu, learns Mystical Monkey Kung Fu, and battles with the villain of the episode, being heroic and stuff. Kim on the other hand spends the entire episode at home doing nothing more than crushing on some random Japanese Purity Sue. Doy...
Ron might be the "sidekick" but he's clearly equal in status in the actual show, especially in Season 3 and 4. Better examples of this trope would be the episode where Mrs. Dr. Possible joins Kim on a mission against Drakken and Shego, the one where the Tweebs save the day after Kim gets mind controlled, and an episode involving Ron's father. Wade comes out of Mission Control a few times as well.
The villains often get a few episodes to shine in as well. In fact Drakken and Shego, the two most well known villains on the show arguably end up the real heroes of the series finale as they're the ones who supply the means to thwart the alien invasion.
Besides the one mostly featuring Rufus with Camille Leon's dog, "Mother's Day" is closest to this trope, as Ron stays at home while Kim's mother goes on a mission with her.
Most American Dad! episodes either focus on Stan or at the very least feature him prominently. Two major exceptions are "The One That Got Away", whose plot focuses exclusively on Roger, with the rest of the family getting only a token B story. They don't even get that in "Escape from Pearl Bailey"; the plot is driven entirely by Steve, while the rest of the family has a grand total of two lines in the entire episode.
"Lost in Space" goes even farther: the whole episode is focused on Jeff's experiences after he's abducted by Roger's species. No other main characters actually appear, though someone imitates Hayley (with her actress' voice) and she and Roger appear in flashbacks.
The Fairly Oddparents had a couple of these. "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker" focused heavily on Timmy's fairy-obsessed teacher and explains how he became the way he is, and shortly afterwards, "The Big Scoop!" revisited first-season episode "A Wish Too Far!", but from Chester and AJ's perspective.
Phineas and Ferb had an episode, "Isabella and the Temple of Sap", devoted to Isabella and the Fireside Girls obtaining an ingredient for the title character's Project of the Day (as seen in the episode "Bubble Boys").
"Vanessassary Roughness" focuses on Doofenshmirtz's daughter Vanessa trying to obtain a rare chemical to impress him. Said episode could also count as one for Ferb, who, despite being a main character, is usually overshadowed by his brother for some reason. Phineas just lays in a vibrating chair for this episode while Ferb runs around helping Vanessa.
"Nerdy Dancing" is centered around Jeremy trying to impress Candace, in a reversal to many other episodes.
One could also count "Titans East," which focuses on that team and Cyborg while the other main Titans barely appear.
101 Dalmatians: Two-Tone got her share of the limelight in "Love `em and Flea `em". In most episodes, she has one or two lines.
In Chowder, Gazpacho was given his own episode toward the end of the series' run. Chowder and Mung only appear briefly in the beginning.
The Penguins of Madagascar could be considered a show in the limelight, since its primary characters are the title penguins (Kowalski, Private, Rico, Skipper) and the lemurs (King Julien, Maurice, and Mort), all of whom were only secondary characters in the Madagascar films.
Winx Club had an episode where Stella participates in a beauty pageant, and another where Tecna is strongly suspicious of Professor Avalon. But the most notable non-Bloom-centric episode was "Magic in My Heart", which focuses on Musa putting on a concert at Red Fountain against her father's wishes. It's especially notable since Bloom and Flora (and in the original, Tecna) were all Demoted To Extras. (It could also be considered A Day In The Limelight for Stormy, as the rest of the time, the Trix's plans revolve around Icy and Darcy, but here she gets to fight Musa by herself.)
Season 3 episode 20 focuses on the pixies, especially Digit, fighting the Trix.
It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown stars Snoopy's brother, Spike. Despite the title, Charlie Brown (and Snoopy) only appear in a very brief intro.
Tiny Toon Adventures had "Sepulveda Boulevard", a full episode detective noir-esque story centering around Montana Max, Plucky Duck, and Elmyra Duff. It was the only episode of the show that did not have Buster Bunny or Babs Bunny in any capacity (there's a picture of Babs on a billboard, but that's it).
A lot of season 2 episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic focused on side characters, with Spike, the Cutie Mark Crusaders (whether individually or as group together), Granny Smith, Big Macintosh, and Cheerilee being the center of attention.
Season 3 finally gave Scootaloo a chance to shine.
Each member of the clan gets to star in at least one episode (the "trio" each make a mortal enemy during their episodes; Hudson and Bronx make new friends during theirs).
Recess: The main six got their own episodes centering around them. Aside from that, most of the other major characters got their own episodes centering around them, such as The Ashleys, Miss Grotke, and King Bob, and one episode that centers on Gordy, who's a background character (who's famous for not liking T.J. for no reason, as well as asking Miss Grotke about sex.)
Though the center of the shower and the plot itself is supposed to be all about Kuzco in The Emperor's New School, season 2 focused on several secondary character's like Guaca, Yatta, Bucky the Squirrel... even Kronk's shoulder angels gets one.
Disney's Winnie the Pooh series does this a lot with some of the cast. The Tigger Movie and Piglet's Big Movie are full length theatrical features focused mainly around one particular character or the cast's relationship with them. Short films A Day For Eeyore and Springtime For Roo also revolve around originally minor characters while The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh gives nearly every supporting character at least two or three episodes to themselves.
TaleSpin episode "Flight School Confidential" is revolved largely around Kit venturing to Thembria, with Baloo only getting a brief role in the opening and closing scenes. A couple of episodes also focus dominantly on Rebecca and Molly's relationship.
King of the Hill has "Peggy Makes the Big Leagues". Peggy begins substitute teaching at high school and ends up failing the star football player, who under the "No Pass No Play" rule gets suspended from the team. Everyone else (even regular Straight Man Hank) throws a fit and does their best to go around Peggy just so the team can get to state. Peggy is normally a Base Breaker, but in this episode she's completely in the right and sticks to her morals in the face of overwhelming peer pressure.
Like The Simpsons, King of the Hill 's status as a long runner enabled it to spotlight most of its supporting cast. Kahn, Buck, Nancy and Cotton got fairly regular focus episodes, and even minor characters like John Redcorn and Enrique occasionally featured in their own shows.
Although most of the episodes of W.I.T.C.H. focus on one of the five main girls, at least one episode per season revolves around Matt, Caleb, and Blunk as well.
On Scooby-Doo, Velma gets to shine in three instances: in the Pup episode "The Computer Walks Among Us" (Velma is suspended from school when her computer is up on theft charges—the gang tries to clear her), the animated movie "Where's My Mummy?" (in Egypt helping to restore the Sphinx and incurs Cleopatra's curse), and the live-action film "Curse Of The Lake Monster" (Velma's body is taken over by the spirit of a witch).
Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: "Zilly's A Dilly" had the squadron scaredy cat Zilly hypnotized into being brave. He's too brave, and his devil-may-care approach proves more hazardous to the squadron than when he's chicken.
Motorcity does this pretty much every other episode.
Chuck has "Blond Thunder," "Fearless" and "Rise of the Fantasy Vans."
Julie has "Off the Rack," "Like Father, Like Daughter" and "Julie and the Amazons."
Dutch has "Going Dutch" and "Reunion."
Texas has "Texas-ify It" and "Threat Level: Texas!"
Although the main character, "Vendetta" still focuses on Mike Chilton's backstory.
Samurai Jack has a two-parter episode where Jack loses his memory. The Scotsman, Jack's closest ally, has the spotlight in this episode as he tries to find out why Jack lost his memory in the first place.
"Window Pains" is about Peg moonlighting as a window washer.
"Goofin' Up the Social Ladder" is about Peg trying to get into high society.
"Peg o' the Jungle", while also focusing on Pete, is about Peg becoming a jungle queen after Pete forgets their anniversary.
"Hot Air" is about Pistol wanting to fly planes.
"Three Ring Bind" is about Pistol freeing and housing animals from a circus.
"Pistolgeist", while also focusing on PJ, is about Pistol making a Not-So-Imaginary Friend when the other kids refuse to play with her.
While the first season mostly focused on the title character, Moral Orel does this for most episodes in the second season, and a little bit in the third. Notable examples are "Satan" for Coach Stopframe, "Courtship" for Doughy, "Offensiveness" for Ms. Censordoll, "Be Fruitful and Multiply" for Reverend Putty, etc. A notable third season would be the episode "Alone", one of the darkest which focuses a bit more on Ms Sculptham, Nurse Bendy and Censordoll; the former two were considered more one-dimensional before this episode. Creator Dino Stamatopoulos at one point wanted the show to be called "Moralton."
The 1980s cartoon Care Bears has so many bears, they often get left out of episodes, but sometimes one gets a special episode.
Bedtime Bear is often just a Running Gag who's always asleep. In "Bedtime for Care-a-lot", the villains dump sleeping dust on all the bears, except Bedtime Bear, who was already taking a nap. So it's up to Bedtime Bear to save everyone.
Birthday Bear tends to be a forgotten background character, because no one is having a birthday. In "Birthday Bear's Blues", someone does have a birthday, so Birthday Bear takes the limelight.
Wish Bear was almost completely a minor character in the show, but managed to get a starring role in "The Cloud of Uncaring" which saw her attempting to rescue a young boy from No-Heart.
Zoidberg gets "A Taste of Freedom", "Viva Mars Vegas", and "Why Must I Be A Crustacean In Love?"
Hermes gets "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back" and "The Six Million Dollar Mon".
Amy gets "Put Your Head On My Shoulder", and to a lesser extent, "Viva Mars Vegas" and "Proposition Infinity".
Leela's parents, particularly her mom, get one in "Zapp Dingbat".
Kif gets a few, such as "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch" and "Where the Buggalo Roam".
Flexo has "The Lesser of Two Evils".
"Mother's Day" for Mom.
The Planet Express Ship, of all things, gets one in "Love and Rocket".
Clamps has "The Silence of the Clamps".
Lrrr gets one in "Lrrreconciable Ndndifferences".
Nibbler has "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" and "The Why of Fry".
Johnny Bravo: Little Suzy got her own episode, "The Great Bunny Book Ban," in which a Moral Guardian bans a book she likes from the library and she tries to change his mind. Johnny isn't a main character in the episode, only appearing for a few seconds at most.