Surprise parents in live-action TV.
- In a 3rd Rock from the Sun two-parter, the Big Giant Head reveals that he is Dick's father. Tommy later likens this to Luke Skywalker finding out about Darth Vader, but Dick brushes him off, saying this is real life.
- Masterfully inverted, gender-swapped, and played without melodrama in The 10th Kingdom, when via the magic mirror Virginia and her father learn that the Evil Queen is her missing mother Christine. This trope combined with that of the Mysterious Parent (though here there is no revelation about the child). What makes it particularly unique is that, rather than the villain making the revelation, it comes from a third party (in this case a magical object), and it is the hero who must then convince their erstwhile parent of the truth, rather than the reverse. The tragedy ensues when Virginia breaks through to her real mother after the poison comb has loosed her from the Swamp Witch's spell, she remembers who she is and declares her love...and dies in her daughter's arms.
- Infamously used on 24 where the other mastermind of Day 5 that was working with Charles Logan later turned out to be Jack Bauer's brother.
- In the fifth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the team is teleported about 60 years into the future. When the team returns to the modern time, Deke from the future figures out that Simmons and Fitz are his Maternal Grandparents.
- All My Children loves this trope. Examples: Daisy Cortlandt and Myra Murdock (Nina's "dead" mother and long-lost grandmother), Palmer Cortlandt (Ross Chandler's long-lost father), and Jackson Montgomery (Greenlee Smythe's real father). In 2006, the show waved a magic Retcon wand to reveal Josh Madden is Erica Kane's son. It seems he was originally aborted but during the termination procedure, Dr. Greg Madden took Erica's fetus to implant into his wife and raise as his own son.
- Caleb and Sheriff Buck of American Gothic (1995). Unique in that it is revealed in the pilot of the series, and that while Caleb reacts in disgust and anger at the notion, he never has a Heroic BSoD or otherwise freaks out over the revelation. In fact the more time passes, the less issue he seems to take with it, even welcoming and embracing the relationship by the end of the series. This could be due to being orphaned and having no one else to turn to except an increasingly unstable doctor and a
Cool Big Siscool cousin who is also being drawn into Buck's orbit, but all things considered, probably not.
- On Arrested Development, Oscar is really Buster's father, GOB is Steve Holt's father, and Lindsay is adopted.
- At the end of Bangkok Hilton, Kat finds out that Bill Worthington, the man who helped her escape from the titular prison, is her father Hal Stanton. The audience, incidentally, has known this from the first episode.
- Taken to absurdity in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, when they parody Australian soaps:Fry: The truth is, mate, I was confused and slightly bewildered. I'd just discovered that Durnick isn't my real father.
Laurie: He isn't? Then who is?
Fry: I am.
Laurie: Then that must mean that you must be—
Fry: Exactly. Devlin's half-sister's wife's doctor's cousin's niece.
Laurie: Well then, who the hell am I?
- Bones has this in one episode, where Bones discovers that the priest who has been helping them on a case is actually her long-lost father, who is also the murderer they are hunting for.
- Carnivàle: Where to begin? The mysterious Henry Scudder is Ben's father. Lucius Belyakov (AKA Management) is the father of both Justin and Iris (who were born Alexei and Irina Belyakov). And Justin is Sofie's father, having raped her mother Appolonia as a young man.
- The spy Richard Castle knows as Jackson Hunt tells him this in response to Castle asking him why he's so fixated on rescuing Alexis (because she's his granddaughter).
- In Chinese Paladin, Drunken Master Mo Yixi suspects from the beginning that he is Ah Nu's long-gone father, but due to a Family Relationship Switcheroo on the mother's part, has to investigate further before he's sure.
- In season 3 of Chuck, where Casey yells "I'm your father!" when Alex starts to run away after he has "kidnapped" her.
- Le Cur a ses Raisons ends with the revelation that Brett's, Brad's and Brenda's mother is not Crystale, but rather the maid, Madge.
- Continuum: Subverted - Alec thinks Jason is his father when he experiences a flashback of Jason with his mother; he collects a DNA sample from him to see if they're genetic matches. When the results come back positive (99% match or so), Alec is now sure of his sneaking suspicion. However, this is a show involving time travel, so linear thinking is discouraged ... Simply, Jason is actually Alec's son from the future. So who's Alec father then? Why, Mr. Escher of Piron, of course.
- Parodied by the Melty Man (an Anthropomorphic Personification of male impotence, complete with black glove and Darth Vader voice) in Coupling.Patrick: You killed my erection!
Melty Man: No Patrick, I am your erection!
- Catherine Willows on CSI, when she finds out that Sam Braun is her father.
- Parodied on The Daily Show. Stephen Colbert is asked to report on the cancellation of daytime drama Another World. He goes off on a wild melodramatic tangent, reveals that Colbert is not his real name and accuses Jon Stewart of abandoning his "bastard elevator baby". Subverted within the parody because when Stephen finally calls him "Daddy", Jon spoils it by pointing out that they're the same age.
- Beautifully done in season 3 of The Dead Zone when Sarah finally tells JJ that Johnny is his biological father. JJ doesn't want to believe it and runs up to his room; Sarah and Walt follow. Johnny slowly, sadly heads to the door...and JJ reappears.Walt: John, JJ has a question to ask you.
JJ: What am I supposed to call you?
Johnny: [fighting tears and kneeling down to hug JJ] Johnny. You just call me Johnny.
- Done in very a surprising "How the hell did I not see that coming?" way on Dexter when The Ice Truck Killer is revealed to be Dexter's brother.
- Doctor Who:
- Played straight in "The Doctor Dances", when Nancy reveals that Jamie, the first of the gas mask zombies, was not her little brother as she had said earlier, but her son.
- Mocked in "The Sound of Drums" when dealing with the Master: Martha asks if he is the Doctor's long-lost brother (an idea toyed with by previous producers), to which the Doctor responds, "You've been watching too much TV."
- Downton Abbey brings up the possibility briefly so as to deny it, when an Old Flame of the Dowager Duchess shows up in season 5.Mary: Granny has a past. Thank heavens Papa and Aunt Rosamund were already born or we could spin all sorts of fairy tales.
- One infamous Eastenders moment (2001) is Zoe Slater telling her "sister" Kat: "You can't tell me what to do, you ain't my mother," and getting in response, "YES I AM!"
- The Flash (2014): After Axel Walker, the second Trickster broke him out of prison, James Jesse reveals that the reason he had chosen Axel to be his successor is because they're father-and-son. Mark Hamill, who played James Jesse in The Flash (1990) reprised the role, and gobbled up the scenery as he delivered this marvelous Actor Allusion to his role as Luke Skywalker.
- Monica has a crush on the replacement eye doctor. Only problem? He happens to be the son of her old flame Richard Burke.
- Used more dramatically when Phoebe (an orphan since her dad ran out years ago and her mom committed suicide) learns about her parents' friend Phoebe Abbott who was also her namesake. She pays the older Phoebe a visit hoping the latter knows where her Disappeared Dad is. The older Phoebe admits that she doesn't know where he is, but is moved to reveal that she is Phoebe's (and by extension Phoebe's twin sister Ursula's) biological mother. The episode's ending shows that Ursula knew this all along (never bothering to tell Phoebe) since their supposed mother admitted it in the suicide note (which Ursula never showed Phoebe). Phoebe and Ursula don't have the best sibling relationship.
- Game of Thrones:
- Jaime admits to Myrcella he is her father, embracing her properly for the first time. She then almost immediately dies of poison.
- Rhaegar Targaryen is Jon Snow's biological father.
- Played straight in Glee. It turns out that Shelby Corcoran is Rachel's biological mother.
- In Glitch, episode 4 reveals that Paddy is Beau's ancestor from about 150 years ago.
- The main plot of Graduados. Back in High School, in The '80s, Loli was cheated on by her boyfriend Pablo Catáneo, escaped with Andy Goddzer, and had sex in his truck. She got pregnant, but they all thought that it was with Pablo. Her father ordered them to get married to raise the kid, Martín. Then, in 2012, it was the time for a meeting of former students. Loli saw Andy again, remembered the whole thing, and arranged a DNA Test: it got that Andy is the father of Martín.
- This happens on Green Wing, where Guy discovers that Joanna is his mother, making him and Martin brothers. Unfortunately, he only finds this out after they have sex, leading to a complete meltdown on Guy's part.
- On Grey's Anatomy, Richard Webber reveals to Maggie Pierce that he is her biological father from his affair with her biological mother. Maggie is upset not because of the reveal - she was actively seeking her biological father - but because he waited so long to tell her. She comes around though.
- In season 3 of Haven it is revealed that the Colorado Kid was James, the son of Sarah, the woman Audrey was 54 years ago. 27 years ago he came to Haven to seek his biological mother and found out that she has not aged and thought of herself as Lucy Ripley. In the season 3 finale it is revealed that his biological father was actually Nathan, who had a fling with Sarah when he traveled back in time to the 1950s. It is also revealed that the Bolt Gun Killer, a skin changing serial killer, is actually Arla, James's wife from 27 years ago and thus Audrey's and Nathan's daughter-in-law.
- In the series Heroes:
- In Volume One, Claire Bennet is revealed to be the daughter of Nathan Petrelli and Meredith Gordon, both evolved humans. After a fire occurs in Meredith's home with 18-month old Claire inside, Claire's paternal grandparents, Angela and Arthur Petrelli, arrange her adoption with the Bennet family but they tell Nathan and Meredith that their infant daughter died in the fire.
- In the final scene of the pilot episode, Claire Bennet, a character who was introduced with evolved abilities, is shown to be the daughter of HRG (Noah Bennet), a character who captures evolved humans. Shortly after, it is revealed HRG and his wife, Sandra Bennet, are her adoptive parents, leading to the revelation of the above example.
- Subverted in Volume 3 where Arthur Petrelli convinces Sylar he is his son (and third brother with Peter and Nathan). Turns out this is a lie.
- Teased in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where it's been greatly hinted at (but never actually proved) that Frank is actually Charlie's father.
- In Jonathan Creek, an actress attempts to covertly help the son that she secretly gave up for adoption many years ago by having him cast in the movie she is currently starring in, only to learn that he has developed a bit of an obsession with her, unaware that she is his mother. He's embittered when she rejects him in this sense, understandably a bit Squicked out; unfortunately, she confesses this to her ex-husband who, holding his own grudge, manipulate the son into murdering her.
- Parodied on Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire. Krod confronts Chancellor Dungalor, who stalls for time by revealing that he's Krod's brother. Well, his brother-in-law, as Dungalor was married to Krod's sister. Ex-brother-in-law, actually, as they're not even married anymore.
- The very last words said on Kyle XY by Big Bad Cassidy to Kyle: "I'm your brother."
- Subverted in an episode of Las Vegas where Mike finds evidence that the Montecito's new owner, AJ Cooper, is Piper's father. Piper confronts Cooper and he vehemently denies it. It turns out that Cooper knew her father from when they served in the Marines together and promised that he would keep an eye on her.
- Lawman: In "The Joker", outlaw Barney Tremain claims to be Johnny McKay's real father. It is left unresolved whether he was telling the truth or not.
- Subverted in Life on Mars (2006), where DCI Morgan takes Sam to a graveyard. He shows Sam two graves which have the name Williams on them, telling him that these are his parents, he is not Sam Tyler, but Sam Williams, working for him undercover. Sam shrugs this off and is about to leave when he spots three graves behind him, one of which says 'Here lies Sam Tyler', the other two with his parents names, Vic and Ruth Tyler. He's a little upset by this..
- In the US version of Life on Mars (2008), the trope is inverted: in the finale, Sam Tyler confronts his father, and tells him that he is his son.
- Lost: Claire and Jack are half-siblings. And it seems their father (or his ghost, or SOMETHING like it) is close to the mysterious Jacob.
- In season 5, Pierre Chang, the guy from the orientation tapes, turns out to be Miles' father. "The third day we were here, I was in line at the cafeteria and my mother got in line behind me. That was my first clue."
- In Luke Cage, episode "Blowin' Up the Spot", Diamondback is revealed to be Luke Cage's brother. The line is spoken fairly similarly to the Star Wars version, though the exact quote is, "Nigga, I am your brother."
- In 3x05 of Merlin, it is revealed that Morgana is actually Uther's biological daughter, making her Arthur's half-sister. One wouldn't be surprised because this follows the Arthurian legends, but since Morgana was first introduced as the King's Ward and the daughter of Goloris, one wouldn't be given the impression of anything otherwise.
- Midnight Caller: 27 years after abandoning his family, Jack Killian's father hears his radio show. He calls in to tell him, "I think I may be your father."
- Parodied in an episode of The Mighty Boosh, "Journey to the Centre of the Punk": Howlin' Jimmy Jefferson, the Spirit of Jazz, claims to be Howard's father, then uncle, then second cousin twice-removed on his sister's side, in an attempt to keep Howard from killing him. Only the last one works.Jimmy Jefferson: You can't kill me, boy!
Jimmy Jefferson: Because I'm your father!
Jimmy Jefferson: Yeeeaaah! Let it out! Let it out, boy! Release the pain! Daddy's here, come to daddy! Daddy's come for ya, boy!
Howard: -OOOOOOOOOO Hang on, my dad's a geography teacher in Leeds.
Jimmy Jefferson: ...I meant, uh, I'm your uncle!
Jimmy Jefferson: All those hours spent weeping by the window, bring uncle back for me!
Howard: -OOOOOO... What, uncle Terry? Who works at Stansted?
Jimmy Jefferson: Oh, I meant, um, your 2nd cousin twice removed on your sister's side!
Howard: Oh right, yeah. NOOOOOOOOOOOO-
Jimmy Jefferson: That's right, we's family!
- In the first episode of what is considered possibly the worst TV series made, My Mother the Car, his mother has to admit to David Crabtree that while she's a car, she really is his mother, come back as a 1928 Porter. So, he's sitting in the car and she talks to him. At one point, (3:34 in the video referenced in this example), she says, "David, I am your mother."
- The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nóg: Maeve, the Big Bad, reveals she is The Chosen One Rohan's mother. There is no indication at what point she learned this; Maeve seemed as shocked as anyone when Lugad told her Rohan told him they were brothers. The line is almost identical to the movie's with the names changed appropriately.
- Night and Day's ostensibly parentless Josh Alexander turned out to be Steph McKenzie's son, and then Alex Wells'.
- In the series Night Court it is revealed after several seasons that Harry's mentally unbalanced stepfather "Buddy" is actually his biological father.
- In Once Upon a Time, it's revealed that Henry's biological father is Neal Cassidy, aka Baelfire, Rumpelstiltskin's long-lost son in the second season. Later on, in the third season, it's revealed that Rumpel's father is Peter Pan, making him Henry's great-grandfather.
- In the Only Fools and Horses 1987 Christmas special "The Frog's Legacy", Del and Albert hinted that Freddie the Frog, a gentleman safecracker had an affair with Del and Rodney's mum Joannie before Rodney was born. This rumor was confirmed to be true in the 2003 Christmas special "Sleepless in Peckham", when Rodney looks at an old photograph of the 1960 Jolly Boys' Outing and finds that Freddie bears an uncanny resemblance to him.
- Power Rangers has been fond of this one and uses it regularly since it was so successful the first time around:
- In Power Rangers In Space, we are treated to the tasty reveal that Big Bad Astronema is The Captain Andros's long-lost sister Karone after brainwashing.
- Two years later in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, we are treated to the revelation that then-evil Sixth Ranger Ryan is Mission Control Captain Mitchell's long-lost son (And, thereby, Pink Ranger Dana's brother).
- In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, we find out that Big Bad Lothor is Sensei Watanabe's twin brother, and Sixth Ranger Cam's uncle. This was fortunate for Lothor's nieces by marriage, as they would have been destroyed if Cam hadn't decided to save them—because "they're family."
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, we have the revelation that Sixth Ranger Trent is the adopted son of Big Bad Mesogog's human counterpart Anton Mercer.
- But the all-time leader is Power Rangers Mystic Force, where we learn in short succession that the evil Wolf Knight Koragg is the mind-controlled form of Leanbow, husband to Udonna. Udonna then discovers that Red Ranger Nick is actually her long-lost son Bowen. Meanwhile, we discover that comic relief character Leelee is secretly the daughter of Necrolai, queen of the vampires.
- This is invoked a little differently in the original Mahô Sentai Magiranger series, in which Koragg's counterpart Wolzard has "killed" Miyuki Ozu, mother of the five heroes. Episodes 33 and 34 reveal to both Wolzard and the Magirangers that Wolzard is in fact Blagel, Miyuki's husband and the Magirangers' long-lost father, having been brainwashed. In the same episode, before he's recaptured by the villains, he also reveals he'd actually transported Miyuki to safety rather than killing her. Both Blagel and Miyuki later return as the armored warriors Wolzard Fire and Magi Mother.
- Following In Space's example, RPM reveals that Dark Action Robot Girl Tenaya 7 is actally Dillon's missing sister, which surprises... absolutely no one.
- Used again in Power Rangers Dino Charge when the Aqua Ranger, in order to snap Tyler out of an out-of-control state brought on by a virus-infected Dino Charger, reveals to him that "It's ME. I'm your dad."
- The second-season finale of The Pretender: Miss Parker learns that she has a twin brother she was never told about because he supposedly died at birth — and not only is he still alive, he's one of the recurring characters! (All four of the series' season finales feature a "He's the brother you never knew you had" reveal for one of the lead characters — counting the clone in the third season finale as a brother — but this is the only one where the brother is an already-established character.)
- Princess Returning Pearl: Xiao Jian says a variation of this line to Xiao Yan Zi to reveal that he is her brother.
- Played straight in Reaper with The Devil revealed to be Sam's father at the end of season one.
- In series 7 of Red Dwarf it is revealed that Lister's father is himself, and his mother is Kochanski, his long-lost love.
- In Remington Steele, Steele finds out in the last episode that Daniel Chalmers, his mentor and fellow con-man, is actually his long-lost father.
- In Revenge Emily Thorne learns that the assassin- Gordon Murphy- responsible for the murder of her father ended up marrying her mother, Kara Clarke, making him her stepfather. It still doesn't stop either of them from attempting to execute the other.
- Stevie Grayson, the ex-wife of Conrad Grayson and rival of Victoria Grayson, drops the bombshell in Season 3 that she is the biological mother of Jack Porter, Emily's childhood flame.
- Sanctuary: While the audience learns in episode 1 that John Druitt (AKA Jack the Ripper) is Ashley's father, she doesn't get the news until later in the season when he kidnaps her.
- Scrubs: Parodied in season 1 when the Janitor tries to spook J.D. by bringing up stuff from his personnel file, but J.D. sees right through it. When he then brings up one of J.D.'s childhood memories and J.D. asks how he could possibly know that, the Janitor mockingly claims to be his father.
- In the episode "The Descent Into Hell Isn't Easy" Clary finds out that her father didn't actually die and is actually Valentine Morgenstern. Nine episode later in "Blood Calls To Blood", Jace finds out his father "Michael Wayland" is actually Valentine as well, who was in disguise.
- Clary tries to invoke this with Luke while he's telling her about his past in "Of Men And Angels". He gives her a long look and reminds her that while he and Jocelyn were in love while she was still married to Valentine, they would have known if he was her father.
- Sharpe: in Sharpe's Justice, the rabble-rouser Matt Truman is Sharpe's half-brother.
- Parodied in the Stargate SG-1 episode "200": the rest of the SG team momentarily trick Mitchell into believing that O'Neill is his father by means of Time Travel.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: It was hinted at throughout their character arcs, but nevertheless was a huge surprise when it was revealed that Enabran Tain and Elim Garak were father and son. However, Tain and Garak both knew it all along. The reveal was mainly for the audience who had not known it. The drama of the reveal is based on Tain wishing on his deathbed for Garak to avenge his death, while Garak wants - for once in his life, and before it's too late - for them to have a moment as father and son, instead of a superior and inferior officer or a mentor and his protégé.
- It's also strongly hinted, but never acknowledged, that Tain's live-in-housekeeper is Garak's mother. She definitely raised him and at one point he implies she is the one person he knows genuinely cares for him.
- The Vampire Diaries: Turns out that Uncle John is this to Elena.
- Subverted when ELENA confronts him with the reveal in order to get him to let her go.
- Veronica Mars:
- Subverted when paternity tests confirm that Keith Mars is indeed Veronica's father, not her mother's highschool sweetheart Jake Kane.
- And then played straight with Logan's adopted sister in an... interesting way.
- Also played straight at the end of the second season episode "Green-Eyed Monster" with Wallace and Nathan.
- In the White Collar episode "Vested Interest", a DNA test reveals that mysterious informant Sam is actually Neal's Disappeared Dad.
- Averted in Without a Trace: Agent Malone is captured and tortured by a conwoman who thinks he's an enemy out to get her and her partner who is, naturally, her son. I can't recall all the facts, but in the end the conwoman dies and asks Malone not to tell her son the truth (it probably would've been squicky for him anyway).
- The X-Files: Hints had been dropped throughout the series that Bill Mulder was not Mulder's father, but that his father was the Cigarette-Smoking Man. It was left up in the air until season seven's "The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati", we find out that he is Mulder's father, but Mulder does not find out until much later.