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Parental Substitute / Live-Action TV

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  • Given how she was constantly shuffled between foster homes in her youth, Agent Coulson is the closest (and longest lasting) thing to a father figure that Skye of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever had. It gets lampshaded in an early episode when Skye refers to an argument between Coulson and May as "Mom and Dad fighting". Coulson outright confirms this status in an episode where Skye is critically injured and tells the doctor who wants to summon her family so they can say their goodbyes that the team is Skye's family.
    • This is further enhanced in Season 2, when Skye's actual father The Doctor (aka Cal Zabo/Mr. Hyde) shows up. While he desperately tries to connect with her, she rightfully calls him out as a monster (which he regretfully admits to), and clings even closer to Coulson as a result. To say that this pisses the Doctor off is an understatement.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Manchild Sheldon often views Penny as a substitute for his mother (who is alive, just lives away from him); he wants her to take care of him when he's sick, or sing him a lullaby. This is especially emphasized in the episode "The Guitarist Amplification", when Sheldon runs away to the comic book store, because he can't bear Leonard and Penny fighting, and Penny makes it up to him by buying him a robot and a comic book.
    • His reasoning for not standing watching them fight is because it reminds him of when his parents' fight, which truamatized him. Given how his dad would throw dishes and apparently his mother would bake glass shards in his food as retaliation, it's tragically understandable why the conflict causes him to revert.
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    • Leonard takes on a fatherly role at times: taking care of his transportation needs, shopping for food and clothing, making sure he goes to bed on time and is often the one he goes to for advice on relationship matters. When he and Penny were dating they served as surrogate parents, when they broke up Sheldon was like a child in a divorce. That led to a lot of Does This Remind You of Anything? dialogue as Leonard and Penny renew their friendship for Sheldon's sake.
      • Especially the case whenever the changes in status quo had overwhelmed Sheldon to where he needed to go on his own to recover. Leonard was utterly worried and it took Penny to calm him down and to trust Sheldon. Later, Leonard is the one whi picks up Sheldon up soon.
    • Sheldon's mother tends to be this for Leonard; for all that she tends to be The Fundamentalist and is not particularly well-educated, she is nonetheless a much more loving and sympathetic figure than Leonard's own mother, who treats Leonard as an errant test subject. Likewise, Sheldon sees Leonard's mother this way, as the two of them have much more in common with each other than with Leonard.
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  • Sweets from Bones was adopted by an elderly couple, but both died before he began working with Bones and Booth. After Season 4, he begins to see Booth as a father figure and Bones as something like a sister.
  • Breaking Bad has one of the darkest examples possible, to the point of possibly being a subversion. Due to his rocky relationship with his parents, Jesse Pinkman constantly seeks the approval of his former high school chemistry teacher and current partner in the meth business, Walter White. Walter does truly care for Jesse, as he always goes out of his way to protect him, but mixes this care with horrible psychological abuse, emotional blackmail, and manipulation.
  • Capt. Holt is this to Jake in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. There's even one Cold Opening in which Jake calls Holt "dad" by accident, much to the amusement of the entire precinct.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy's father has little contact with her, even after her mother dies, but Giles serves as a surrogate father. In "Helpless", another character describes Giles as having "a father's love" for Buffy. Especially noticeable when a spell causes Buffy to decide to get married and she ask Giles to give her away. In the comics, Giles does for Faith what he did for Buffy.
    • Willow and Xander are similar, as well. Willow's parents are away for months at a time and have virtually abandoned her, rarely seeing her at all. Xander's parents are drunk and too busy yelling at each other to notice him most of the time. Giles often serves as a surrogate father to them both. It makes Giles' somewhat dismissive and snippy treatment of Xander in early seasons kind of upsetting—for instance, in a season 3 episode, he is angry at Xander for sleeping during "Oz-watch", but later seems to find it almost endearing when Buffy does the same.
    • Giles is also the only real adult in Dawn's life after her mother's death, and he clearly has a fatherly role in her life as well. His Team Dad status amongst a group of kids without parents makes it pretty easy for him to end up in this role a lot.
    • The Mayor takes a similar role for Faith after her Face–Heel Turn.
    • Maggie Walsh was a surrogate mother to Riley and Adam; the latter even refers to her as "mother".
    • Willow and Tara were surrogate mothers to Dawn for a short time after Buffy's death.
  • Gideon to Reid in Criminal Minds. So when Gideon quits, Reid experiences the second loss of a father in his life.
  • Gil Grissom to Warrick Brown on CSI. Warrick talks a lot about it in the video found after his death. "If I could have chosen my father, I would have chosen Gil Grissom" or something close to that.
  • Disjointed: Played with. Doug deeply desires for a son that he can pass his dojo to. When he befriends the Manchild Pete, he desperately wants to become a father figure to him, for him to become his disciple, inherit the dojo and quit growing marijuana, but Pete loves his current job, already has Ruth closer to being this trope than him and sees Doug as just an older friend, and is often weirded out or uncomfortable by Doug trying to take this position.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Ace's father is never mentioned, and she has a bad relationship with her mother, so the Doctor ends up becoming a father figure to her.
    • Jo Grant and the Third Doctor very clearly had this relationship with each other. Her parents are never mentioned, but Everyone Could See It (in a platonic sense).
    • Various incarnations of the Doctor could be considered a Mad Uncle substitute for a lot of his companions. Even some of the most cynical, like Jack Harkness, want desperately to impress him and live up to his idea of them.
    • The Twelfth Doctor's relationship with Bill, an orphan, is like a fun grandad or a cool teacher. Bill even compares him to her foster mother.
  • Falling Skies: Weaver to Jimmy. While its evidenced throughout the first seasons, from things like Weaver comforting him when he was nearly killed by a Skitter to defending his various screw ups, it really shows when Jimmy dies in the third episode of the second season and Weaver bonds with Ben, who blames himself for his death due to being there, with the two talking about what Jimmy would have wanted and sharing happy memories about him.
    • Pope also offered to do the same with Tom's kids as incentive to get Tom to leave, but as it is Pope, afterall, its not wise to take this as truth.
  • Family Matters: Steve Urkel's parents, in addition to being The Ghost, are abusive, and Steve regularly mentions how much open disdain they show for him. This is part of the reason he always goes over to the Winslow house. Carl Winslow is more of a father to Steve than Steve's father is, even if Carl doesn't usually want him around.
  • In The Flash (2014), Dr. Harrison Wells is this to Cisco Ramon. Cisco is estranged from his own family, who never understood his interest in the sciences, and as a result craves the approval of his boss and mentor who actually understands him. For his part, Wells is very fond of Cisco and considers him to be like the son he never had. Unfortunately, even this paternal love is not enough to prevent Wells from killing Cisco in the alternate timeline where he discovered his true identity.
    • Barry Allen has a second father in Joe West, who raised him after his father wrongly went to jail for the murder of his mother. He even calls him 'Dad' before embarking on his mission to save his mum via time travel. Additionally, while Barry isn't quite as close to Dr. Wells as Cisco is, Wells is yet another paternal figure in his life. Until, you know, "Wells" turned out to be Evil All Along and Barry's Arch-Enemy.
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Uncle Phil is a better father figure to Will than Will's own deadbeat dad ever was. The only episode when Will's dad makes an appearance cements this. At the end of the series, Will even admits that he looked up to Phil and wanted to follow his example.
  • On Friday Night Lights, Matt Sarecen sees Coach Taylor as this. Matt has a father, but he's a much better soldier than parent.
  • Frontier Circus: In "The Inheritance", Casey 'inherits' custody of a pair of almost adult children.
  • Full House is somewhat based in this trope. Uncle Jesse and Joey move in to help Danny raise his daughters after the mom dies in a car accident, thus becoming additional father figures in the girls' lives. Later, Jesse gets married and Aunt Becky takes on the role of mom substitute.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Davos Seaworth was the closest thing to a decent parental figure Shireen Baratheon had — her actual parents being crazy Lord of Light zealots who spent a lot of time burning people when things weren't going well for them during the War of Five Kings. He admits that he loved her as if she were his own child when confronting Melisandre over her role in Shireen being burned as a sacrifice.
    • Osha eventually becomes one for Bran and Rickon, growing extremely protective of them.
  • In Gilmore Girls Luke is this to his nephew, Jess, after Jess's mother sent him to live with Luke.
  • Gossip Girl: Dorota is more of a mother to Blair than Eleanor Waldorf is. Lily tries to be this for Chuck, but she's barely a parent to her biological children, so... A good moment that demonstrates this trope is when she told Bart Bass, back from the dead, "Charles is mine, too".
    • Lampshaded in season three:
      Cyrus: Dorota is family. She practically raised Blair. [death glare from Eleanor]
  • In Gotham, Alfred Pennyworth and Jim Gordon share this role for the young Bruce Wayne as the show goes into the topic, rarely discussed in the comics, of what kind of child-rearing would create the Batman. As an ex-marine turned butler suddenly forced into the role of sole caretaker of an emotionally damaged child billionaire, Alfred is, with the best of intentions, not really equipped to take care of Bruce. He spoils Bruce by letting him indulge in his obsession regarding the deaths of his parents, and teaches Bruce to solve his problems with violence. Gordon, meanwhile, as the only By-the-Book Cop, acts as moral center for Bruce. Both of them inadvertently instill a To Be Lawful or Good mindset favoring good in Bruce, since Alfred does not think highly of the police and Gordon's investigation into the Wayne murders has met with limited success.
  • In Harlots, there's no mention made of Charlotte and Lucy's father. (Or possibly fathers. Given their mother's profession, it's very likely that they don't have the same one.) However, William, their mother's partner (and father of their half-brother Jacob) is wonderful and loving to them both, and is their father in every way that matters. Both girls call him "Pa" and apparently have for a long time. When Lydia mockingly tells William he can't claim Charlotte is his daughter, he promptly responds that, while they may not be biologically related, Charlotte calls him her father by choice, and that's what really counts.
  • In Humans at first glance Leo and Anita seem like love interests, that is until The Reveal that Leo sees Anita as his mother and she in turn loves him as her son. They look of similar age but Anita is a sentient robot who has raised Leo from childhood.
  • At the end of the I'm in the Band episode "Lord of the Weasels", Derek Jupiter, the lead singer of Iron Weasel, is considered to be a father figure to the band's teen guitarist, Tripp Campbell.
  • Law & Order: UK's DS Matt Devlin clearly views his partner Ronnie as this, even though he never actually says it. Unsurprising, given that his father/stepfather was abusive. The reverse is also true—after Matt is killed, Ronnie explicitly says, "He was like my son." Also unsurprising as he was a terrible father to his two daughters, due to being an alcoholic.
  • On Leverage, Archie was this to Parker as a teenager, even calling himself her father. Nate and Sophie also have elements of this towards both Parker and Hardison.
  • In LOST, after Claire disappears and fails to escape the island with them, Kate ends up adopting her son.
  • Gaius for Merlin on Merlin. He does meet his real father briefly, but Balinor dies before the episode is over. And his mom is still in Ealdor.
  • NCIS: Gibbs is pretty explicitly this to Ziva:
    • During the episode "Dead Air", Tony and McGee have been teasing her about not knowing much about baseball. At the end of the episode, this exchange ensues:
      McGee: Well, look at this! She do know a little somethin' 'bout baseball, huh?
      Ziva: Yeah. My father taught me.
      Gibbs: [face-splitting grin]
    • Gibbs expresses his side at the end of the episode "Safe Harbor", after giving her some fatherly advice.
      Ziva: Are you lonely, Gibbs?
      Gibbs: You're never lonely when you have kids. [kisses her on the forehead] Goodnight, kid.
    • There's some Fridge Brilliance in the relationship if you know that Ziva is the age Gibbs' daughter would have been if she hadn't been killed.
    • To a lesser extent, Gibbs to Tony. Tony does care for his real father (even after finding out he was/is a con artist) but doesn't really need his approval. Disappointing Gibbs is something that bothers him immensely, and when Gibbs gives him a So Proud of You comment, you can see Tony practically swell.
  • Alan Eppes of NUMB3RS has a habit of acting like this towards Don's FBI team, as well as Robin and Amita (his eventual daughters-in-law). He also takes on something of a big brother/mentor role to Larry, providing him with guidance and advice.
  • Once Upon a Time: Red was obviously raised by her grandmother, but Granny is also implied to be a parental substitute for Snow White.
    • Hook evolves into one for Henry, doing things like taking him sailing while Emma's out investigating the going-ons in town, and apparently Henry prefers hanging out with Hook than his "boring" grandparents. The symbolism is even clearer when you take into account Hook and Emma having feelings for each other.
    • Hook was also this for Henry's actual father, Baelfire. It's a long story.
  • Raising Hope: Sabrina takes on the role of Hope's mother (who's a notorious serial killer) to the point of Hope calling Sabrina "mommy".
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures, it is revealed that Sarah Jane's parents died when she was only three months old, and she was raised by her Aunt Lavinia. Exactly how much of a mother figure Lavinia was is somewhat debatable, as Sarah Jane once described her as "always so busy, never in one place long enough to lick a stamp". It can be argued, of course, that that doesn't necessarily mean that she was uncaring or uninvolved. In fact, the pilot for the failed spin-off series K9 & Company gives us a small glimpse into their relationship, and they do generally seem to care about one another (and has Lavinia use exactly that phrase to describe Sarah Jane).
    • There's no denying that Maria and her mother love each other dearly, but Chrissie is, to put it bluntly, a massive flake. Sarah Jane winds up picking up the slack and becomes the mother-figure Maria needs.
  • Johnny Rose on Schitt's Creek gradually becomes a surrogate father to his business partner, Stevie Budd. Stevie, in fact, becomes close to all of the Roses over the course of the show. She eventually expresses fear that Johnny will abandon her, but he promises her that won't happen. When the motel is renamed The Rosebud Motel, after Johnny and Stevie, it feels like a kind of adoption. In Season 5, the un-maternal Moira becomes a substitute mother to Stevie as the older woman directs the younger in a community theatre production.
  • Series 3 makes it rather obvious that Mycroft was this to the titular character of Sherlock, since their actual parents were very well-meaning but out of their depth with two prodigy children. Interestingly for this trope, it's also implied that Mycroft wasn't necessarily a particularly good parental substitute. Most likely at least partially because Mycroft considers himself to be smarter than Sherlock, and Sherlock considers Mycroft to be smarter than him.
  • Stargate SG-1: Samantha Carter acts as a mother-figure for Cassandra. Even after Dr. Fraisier adopts Cassandra, the girl retains a strong attachment to Sam. O'Niell also acts as a second father-figure for Skaara (though it might be more fair to say that Skaara acts as a surrogate son for O'Neill, whose son accidentally killed himself with O'Neill's gun.
  • Captain Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine seems to fit this for some of the cast some of which don't have parents living or otherwise (Kira,Odo)or aren't on speaking terms/have parental issues (Bashir, Ezri)this is shown in some of his interactions with them.
  • On Star Trek: Voyager, little Naomi Wildman's father is 70,000 light years away when she is born, so several of the male crewmembers try to fill a paternal role in her life, usually her godfather Neelix.
    • Captain Janeway serves as a positive parent to young Kes, rehumaned Seven of Nine, B'Elanna Torres (whose father abandoned her), Tom Paris (ditto, just not physically), and Harry Kim (made even more pronounced in "Endgame").
      • Lampshaded in "Barge of the Dead" (where B'Elanna's mother appears in a vision wearing a Starfleet captain's uniform) and "Dark Frontier", where Janeway "tucks Seven into bed" (plugs her into her Borg alcove) after she wins the custody battle rescues Seven from the Borg Queen.
    • Seven of Nine later became this to four creepy-ass Borg children they rescued with variable success. Their interaction was as much about Seven's continued Character Development as the kids', if not more.
  • Stranger Things loves this trope:
    • Thanks to their father Lonnie Byers being an asshole deadbeat dad, Jonthan and Will see Hopper as their prime father figure helped by the fact Hopper and their mother Joyce were teen sweethearts. Jonathan who normally doesn't see eye to eye with adults aside from his mother notably softens up around Hopper repeatedly asks to go with the police chief when shit hits the fan but Hopper gently refuses, insisting Jonathan look after the kids and his mother. Hopper also flashbacks to when his daughter was dying when giving younger son Will CPR in the season finale just hammer to point home harder.
    • In just one scene Joyce becomes mother surrogate to the parent straved Eleven as she comforts Eleven about going into the Upside Down in the Mental World then when Eleven freaks outs Joyce soothes her back to calmness. The most heartwarming thing is Joyce was clearly worried about her own son Will but she prioritized looking after Eleven at that moment because it was more important. It's also ironic as Mike suggested his own mom Karen could be Eleven's mother surrogate, even though she wouldn't be half as effective as Joyce is in the role. At the end of Season 3, Joyce adopting Eleven due to Hopper's apparent death isn't even questioned or challenged In-Universe it just happens.
    • Throughout Season 2 Hopper is father surrogate to Eleven and while it's very heartwarming it also realistically goes through the heartache of the both of them arguing with each other, with Hopper failing to keep his promises he made her and Eleven running away from him when all Hopper wants to do is keep her safe (as Eleven reminds him greatly of his own daughter whom he lost). Near the end Eleven gets a vision of Hopper apologizing for his actions into a recorder causing Eleven to cry and return to Hawkins from LA, once reunited and they make up before the Final Battle. Mike even gets angry at Hopper for not telling him about Eleven continued existence and is actually kinda jealous that Hopper gets to look after Eleven and he doesn't. In Season 3 Hopper frequently calls Eleven his daughter without pretense and is pretty overprotective of her, especially when Mike is being a bad influence on her.
  • Leroy's mother in Still Open All Hours abandoned him with his probable father Granville. Pretty much all the female customers of a certain age seem to be his mother-figures, especially Nurse Gladys.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Mr. Mosbey is this for London. It's discussed and shown throughout both series that he's been the main parental figure in her life, with her distant parents and interchangeable nannies. In the episode where London is learning to drive, we find out that Moseby actually taught her how to walk as well as tying her shoes, riding a bike and roller-skating. She then comments that he has been in the Tipton family album more than her father or any of his ex-wives. They exchange the occasional tender moment when London is missing her parents. Other characters notice this too:
    London: Why should I get something for Moseby? I mean, what has he ever done for me?
    Bailey: [Beat] Raised you like you were his own daughter?
    London: Look at me. I'm selfish and spoiled. He did a terrible job. [beat] Fine. But tomorrow I'm gonna be extra selfish!
  • Since John Winchester of Supernatural spent a lot of time away from his boys when they were young and died at the beginning of the show's second season, fellow hunter Bobby Singer has served as Sam and Dean's adviser, backup, and primary father figure throughout the series. Dean even says on two occasions (in season three's "Dream A Little Dream of Me" and season four's "Lazarus Rising") that Bobby's been like a father to him.
    Dean: [to Bobby] You're about the closest thing I have to a father. ("Lazarus Rising")
    • For his part, Bobby seems to see the boys as surrogate sons, saying in the season three finale, "No Rest for the Wicked", that "family don't end with blood".
    • Bobby seems to have been this to an extent even when the boys were kids. He is, for example, the only person who ever took Dean out to play ball, and it's shown that Dean and Sam knew him as "Uncle Bobby" when they were young. Interestingly, before Bobby's introduction at the end of season one, they had spent an unspecified amount of time estranged from one another (apparently Bobby had chased John off his property with a shotgun).
    • In Season 6, when Sam wants to avoid regaining his soul, which he fears will destroy him by bringing back memories of his time in Hell, he is told that he can prevent this by committing a grievous sin, specifically patricide. Literal patricide is obviously out of the question, but Sam is reassured that "it needs the father's blood, but the father need not be blood", leading him to chase Bobby violently through his own house in the attempt to commit the murder. (Keep in mind that Sam isn't himself at the time. He knows enough to identify Bobby as his father figure, but not enough to be horrified by the thought of killing him.) The episode also gave us the hilarious Fridge Horror line "Nobody kills me in my house but me!"
    • When they find themselves caring for a baby and have to come up with a name for it impromptu, Dean decides to call it "Bobby" and Sam decides to call it "John". In an effort to not confuse the woman asking about the baby, they hastily restate that the baby's name is "Bobby John".
    • Sam also sees Dean as a father figure. As stated above, John Winchester used to disappear for weeks at a time, leaving young Dean in charge of little Sam. It's no wonder Dean treats Sam like his kid sometimes, calling him "Sammy" and reminiscing fondly on the days Sam was smaller and dependent on him.
  • Teen Wolf has this. Melissa McCall often acts like a mother to Stiles, the best friend of her son Scott, and isn't at all surprised that he has a key to her house. Stiles, whose own mother passed away when he was a child, even calls Melissa 'mom' without realizing it after he's given a sedative and is about to fall asleep.
    • Meanwhile on Scott's end, Stiles's dad is the closest thing Scott has to a father figure, since his own walked out. At one point Stiles's dad even quips that Scott was 'the son he should have had.' Given Scott and Stiles consider themselves brothers it's not surprising they're happy to share their respective parental figures.
    • Melissa also becomes this to Isaac, and basically adopts him in Season 3. Isaac also gains a father substitute in Chris, his girlfriend Allison's Dad and stays with him after she's killed.
    • Played for laughs when Scott's first beta werewolf Liam joins the pack. Despite the fact Liam actually has parents and is only a few years younger than the rest of the characters, Scott and Stiles basically end up co-parenting him, complete with Stiles telling him it's his bed time and Scott giving inspiring pep talks.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles featured several father figures for John Connor, including Charlie Dixon and Derek Reese. (Of course, since Derek is John's uncle, his falling into such a role is kind of natural.)
  • Kitty Forman and Red Forman on That '70s Show filled in as parents to all of Eric's friends to different degrees, especially Hyde whose own parents abandoned him. They took Hyde in and made him go to school and gave him the love and affection he never had growing up. Red was a better parent to other's people kids than his own though, constantly criticizing and frightening his own son while spoiling his evil daughter.
  • True Blood: Bill Compton is a parental substitute for his vampire progeny Jessica Hamby. It's rough at first but Jessica does come to see Bill as a better father than her abusive human father.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, we see Damon being a fatherly substitute to Jeremy, even taking guardianship over him while Jeremy's sister Elena is at college. Alaric is this for Jeremy as well.
    • The argument can be made that Elijah (and Klaus to a lesser extent) are this for their younger siblings Rebekah and Kol. They are also Promotion to Parent due to their parents being both dead and horrible
  • In The Walking Dead, Michonne takes over as a surrogate mother for Carl and Judith after Lori's passing. It becomes official in Season 6 when she starts a romantic relationship with Rick and Carl admits that she's effectively become a second mother to Judith and him.
  • Warehouse 13: Artie is, to quote Pete, "so much like [Claudia's] dad it's kinda annoying."
  • President Bartlet is a parental substitute to Charlie on The West Wing. Bartlet and his chief of staff Leo are both parental substitutes of sorts to Josh (even though he's an adult when his father dies).
  • Peter to Neal in White Collar. Peter is always giving Neal "shape up" lectures, but, at the same time, has affection for and protective feelings toward him, and Neal starts looking to Peter for guidance.
    Neal: [to his recently-returned dad] He's been more of a father to me than you ever were!
  • Without a Trace's Martin Fitzgerald's aunt and uncle were this to him, having never had a close relationship with his father.
  • The X-Files: In the first season, mysterious informant Deep Throat is something of a father substitute for Mulder even though Mulder's father is still alive at this point.


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