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Reasonable Authority Figure / Live-Action TV

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Reasonable Authority Figures in live-action TV.


  • Bill Buchanan in 24, a rare boss who understands that Jack does what he has to do.
    • President David Palmer was all over this trope long before Buchanan.
    • President Allison Taylor was this as well, excluding a few episodes near the end of the series.
    • On Day 3, Ryan Chappelle was evolving from an Obstructive Bureaucrat into this, even performing a Heroic Sacrfice to help save the day.
  • Gideon Reeves of APB qualifies. He actively encourages subordinates to question him and make him explain his reasoning so flaws can be found, and chooses Murphy as a primary adviser in large part because she's so up-front about telling him what she thinks he needs to hear, even if it's not what he'd like to hear.
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  • Sheriff Andy Taylor of The Andy Griffith Show is both a subversion where the hero IS the authority figure, and one of the most thoroughly detailed depictions of this trope. Over the seasons, there have been a vast number of events, ranging from minor Narrative Filigree to entire episode A-plots, depicting Andy's dedication to adapting his approach to crime based on the particular case and person at hand, and his goal of defusing tensions and trouble to prevent crime and strife from arising in the first place rather than being focused on punishing violators.
  • In Auction Kings, Paul is very level-headed and tends to take Jon's screw-ups in stride. Cindy tends to be more hot-headed.
  • Senator Hidoshi from Season One of Babylon 5 is willing to run interference against an increasingly corrupt Earth government on behalf of Sinclair and the station, but not without telling the commander his Rules Lawyer games are making things more difficult. Once President Clark takes power in Season Two Hidoshi and any other voice of reasonableness on the part of EarthGov disappears completely.
  • Camille Saroyan from Bones, also Da Chief, is very reasonable (albeit exasperated) with her team of squints. While she feels like the Only Sane Woman, she respects the work her colleagues do and assists them accordingly.
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    • From earlier seasons, Dr. Goodman is an example as well. While he was often tired of his team's antics, he treated them well.
  • Detective Bosch has an adversarial relationship with Internal Affairs, but IA Captain Irving becomes more than just a straight up antagonist when he and Bosch are united by a common cause.
  • Captain Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, although a fairly strict By-the-Book Cop, is still very understanding of his precinct's concerns and will often do whatever can to alleviate them.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: While Principal Snyder skirted on the edge of being The Dragon to the season three Big Bad (despite having shown up two seasons earlier), Sunnydale High's other two principals were both Reasonable Authority Figures. Principal Flutie meant well and tried to reach out to the students (and was eaten for his pains), and Principal Wood comes close to joining Buffy's Band of Brothers and does in the end.
    • There's also Giles who was reasonable as a Watcher when compared to Wesley (and the rest of the Watchers' Council). He understandably often tries to get Buffy to take her studies more seriously, but he's also one of the few Watchers who doesn't feel the need to prevent her from having friends or a life outside of slaying.
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    • Faith and Kennedy become this in the comics. The former was leading a squad of slayers in England until they left her over Angel, while the latter formed an agency of former slayers turned Bodyguard Babes and showed how reasonable she had become when Buffy worked for her, royally screws up, plans to skip, and attacked her. The ending to Angel & Faith suggests the two will be working together.
  • Captain Roy Montgomery in Castle is incredibly tolerant of Richard Castle's presence in the unit and remarkably willing to accommodate his theories and viewpoints on the cases he and Detective Kate Beckett investigate; this is partially because of pressure from higher-ups regarding the positive press that comes from having a bestselling mystery writer base a character on one of his police detectives, but he also appears to genuinely respect Castle's abilities and like the man personally. He also acts as a father figure to his detectives, particularly Beckett.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor himself counts as one of these, though if he IS tearing the crap out of you, then you (usually) definitely deserve it *cough*Adam, General Cobb*cough* and only a few people — River being one and Susan being another — can possibly calm him down.
    • Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (as well as his daughter Kate) is a supportive and trusting ally of the Doctor, but he's also a Pragmatic Hero and a bit of an Agent Scully who needs the facts before he can act. These traits occasionally have him at odds with the Doctor, though there is a reason that he's the Trope Namer for The Brigadier.
    • "Spearhead from Space": The Brigadier's immediate superior is rather dubious of his claims when he talks to him on the phone, but agrees that it sounds serious and will give the Brigadier his full support. Then he puts down the phone and answers the door...
    • "The Deadly Assassin": Goth insists on trying the Doctor quickly, rather than posing the next President with the choice of forgoing the usual pardon that accompanies his installment, or releasing the murderer of a beloved President — he would, no doubt, find it hard. Subverted, as Goth is actually trying to get the Doctor executed for the Master.
    • "Vengeance on Varos": The Governor, who is ruling a Bread and Circuses society and trying to get the best prices for his people from a Corrupt Corporate Executive despite the risk to his life.
    • "Rise of the Cybermen": The President of an Alternate Universe Great Britain, who calls the Cyberconversion process "obscene" and refuses to let John Lumic continue developing it in Britain, and by all appearances seems to be trying to do good in the Crapsack World he runs. So naturally, Lumic has him killed first.
    • "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks": Solomon can't condone stealing, but he acknowledges that it was motivated by hunger as opposed to greed or malice. Thus, the thief gets to keep half of what he stole, but also gets a tongue-lashing and public shaming. Solomon also does his best to make Hooverville into a Close-Knit Community.
  • Major Richter, the commander of the German occupation forces in Enemy at the Door, prefers to maintain cordial relations with the locals, wishes to see justice done without discrimination along national lines, and resists tendencies by some of his underlings (particularly the SS officer Reinicke) in a more tyrannical direction. Even so, his ideas of what is reasonable don't always accord with those of the occupied population.
  • The Flipside of Dominick Hide: Caleb, Dominick's boss in both installments, despite seeming a bit sinister, is secretly helping Dominick due to the Stable Time Loop and arranges for Dominick to be Kicked Upstairs rather than fired for his transgressions.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ned Stark does his best to keep this ideal, though the effectiveness of his rule is debatable. This is Robert's reason for wanting Ned as Hand of the King. In fact, if he had it his way, he'd let Ned rule the Seven Kingdoms with him.
    • For all his faults, Lord Tywin was this as Hand to the Mad King, whose reign only fell off the rails after Tywin resigned. He'll push through his ultimate decision at the end of every dispute, but he's willing to listen to reason if it genuinely suits his purposes.
      • He is instrumental in stabilizing Joffrey's reign after the Battle of Blackwater.
      • Despite his relationships with his children, he continues to practice Pragmatic Villainy with them. While he loathes Tyrion, he trusts him as Hand until Tywin himself arrives to fill the role, and preludes a brutal "The Reason You Suck" Speech in Season 3 by telling Tyrion he will be given quarters and a position more suitable for his talents and standing, and keeps his word by naming him Master of Coin. Cersei, on the other hand, is told outright that she is "not as clever as she thinks she is" and kept out of important decisions to the best of his ability.
      • He is disgusted by Loras Tyrell's homosexuality, but still respects the young man's fighting skills and wishes to use them — Tywin did allow Loras to command the vanguard at the Battle of Blackwater, after all, and even to do so wearing his late lover's armor.
      • He thinks Ser Gregor's torture of prisoners is a waste of time and stops it.
      • He recognizes Arya as a girl very quickly. Later, he deduces (correctly) that she is i) a Northerner and ii) highborn, but realises that she is alone in the world and her actions are to protect herself.
      • Despite his behavior before Joffrey, he is fully aware that Daenaerys will eventually bring her three dragons to Westeros; Tywin knows Dorne was the only country to withstand Aegon I and his dragons, so he is willing to bargain with Oberyn Martell.
    • Daenerys likes to see herself as this and decides to stay in Slaver's Bay to practice it.
    • Robb will not be a dick to his subjects, is merciful to enemy combatants and will hear them out. He also follows Ned's example that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.
    • Most of Lyanna Mormont's decisions are taken with advice of her maester and sentinel but she also knows when it's her call. Even though she is loyal to the Starks she won't throw her men in battle without convincing arguments and does not ask any large compensation from the Starks when she sides with them as they are her liege.
    • Kevan Lannister:
      • In "Fire and Blood", Kevan is willing to make peace with the Starks since the Lannisters only went to war with the Starks and Tullys because Catelyn humiliated Tywin by kidnapping Tyrion, which pales in comparison to their bigger problem of Robert's brothers challenging Joffrey's claim to the throne. As Tyrion explains, the peace deal would have worked if Joffrey hadn't killed Ned, destroying any chance of Robb stopping his war efforts.
      • In Season 2, he advises Tywin to tell Joffrey and Cersei to flee King's Landing before Stannis attacks, and regroup at Casterly Rock. Tywin completely rejects this idea, and while it would be politically disastrous for the Lannister family if they fled, it is clear that his refusal is largely because of his own pride.
      • In Season 5, he's the only person to speak out against Cersei, pointing out that she is stacking the council with her own sycophants, and refuses to act as her puppet. He states he is loyal to the King, but only to the King, not his mother.
      • In Season 6, he purposefully locks Cersei out of Small Council meetings. Considering Cersei's scheming is the sole cause of the entire Sparrow crisis and one of the primary causes this entire war is occuring, one can see why that'd be a wise move.
    • Varys is a poignant, competent advisor and not a particularly wicked schemer by the standards of the Court. His vocal concern for the realm seems genuine enough.
    • In "The Kingsroad", Robert stops drinking for long enough to point out that children fighting is normal and not something that requires royal intervention, though this may be because it was impossible to take any action that wouldn't upset either his wife or his best friend. The rest of the time? Not so much.
    • Stannis shows signs of this when he arrives at the Wall, such as by allowing Jon to choose whether to spare Mance Rayder, and then adhering to his decision to do so. When Jon points out that the Night's Watch can't keep feeding his army, Stannis acknowledges this and says he'll move his troops out as soon as possible.
    • Renly is this towards Ned, and generally has a much better grasp on the situation in the country than does his brother who is ruling it. Robb correctly believes Renly would be more open-minded about his demands for an independent North than Stannis. Despite the Young Wolf's opinion in Season 1 that Stannis is the rightful king after Robert's death, he decides to negotiate with Renly in Season 2 for an alliance against the Lannisters.
  • Principal Figgins of Glee qualifies. Although irrational at times (seriously, vampires?) and a occasionally a coward under Sue, He often gives rational statements over the feud between Sue and Will.
  • Harrow: Detective Senior Sergeant Bryan Nichols is a grumpy old cuss who doesn't like Harrow (or anyone else) very much. He still stops everyone and everything from interfering with Harrow's investigations.
  • When the governor in the new Hawaii Five-0 comes to McGarrett's office to rip him a new one for harassing her old friend. He tells her that one of her old friends, campaign supporter, and well-respected local business tycoon is the head of the local yakuza. Upon hearing the (fairly scanty and mostly circumstantial) evidence, she immediately believes him.
    • Which later gets averted in The Reveal that she actually is corrupt and already knew the information and in bed (metaphorically) with Big Bad Wo Fat.
  • Ultimately played for laughs (just like everything else) in iCarly. Principal Franklin, the principal of Carly's school, is not strict at all, once getting Carly and her friends out of detention, and even giving Carly a reprieve when her friend hacked into the school's computer to change her grades. In the end however, this is at least partially explained by the fact that the principal is a big fan of Carly's webshow, and she wouldn't be able to do the show if she were spending all her time in detention.
    • It seems that he is more than aware of how sadistic the teachers are at his school, which sets him up as the one ray of hope in an otherwise miserable environment.
  • JAG:
    • Admiral AJ Chegwidden qualifies with honors. He almost always backs up his subordinates, unless they’ve committed some Egregious act. Sometimes when he's hit his limit over his people's eccentricities he'll go into a tirade.
    • His successor, General Cresswell, would also qualify but to a much lesser extent.
    • The SecNavs do also, at various points throughout the series come across like this, albeit on very rare occasions.
  • Jack McCoy from Law & Order is the very definition of tough but fair; while he usually dishes out harsh punishments, they are proportional to the crime. It is only after the opposition attempts some shifty defense that he goes all gung ho. For example McCoy once prosecuted a an unrepented drunk driver for killing three pedestrians. McCoy went Knight Templar to convict this driver, hiding witnesses, hide evidence; it is only when McCoy sees that the driver truly regrets his actions that McCoy changes his mind and submits the flight attendant's statement at trial, prompting a plea bargain. Furthermore his underlying motivation is a sincere desire to see justice done. To that end he looks at the fact meticulously, there have been a number of innocent defendants who only had their word to back up their claim. If it wasn’t for McCoy they would be in Jail.
    • This came back to bite McCoy in the butt later on in the series once his name got into the text books. Genre Savvy defense attorneys knew something was up if a plea was too lenient.
  • On Leverage:
    • Lieutenant (promoted to Captain) Patrick Bonano often fills this role. Despite the fact that he knows what Nate and his crew are really doing, he is willing to help them and let them get away with it as much as he can, often using their assistance to solve his own cases.
    • In "The Bottle Job" three police officers, a Sergeant Detective, a Lieutenant, and their Captain, are mourning their friend and owner of the bar John McRory while playing poker. When Nate Ford comes to them to ask for help in stopping a criminal loan shark by letting him join their game and allow the criminal to confess to at least one crime, the cops permit the ruse.note  When the loan shark is caught and sent packing, all three pretend they were never present to allow the money the shark got from the local neighborhood to be given back to the victims without the red tape or admitting to cops they went to an illegal loan shark.
  • Principal Lasseter of Life with Derek is a disciplinarian, but is willing to consider more important things, such as the effect expelling Derek would have on school morale.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015):
      • Sgt. Brett Mahoney is the only cop Matt and Foggy trust. He's the cop they turn Hoffman over to when Hoffman snitches on Wilson Fisk, and in season 2 he gets into a reluctant partnership with Matt.
      • Blake Tower becomes an ally in the district attorney's office for Nelson & Murdock when the firm begins to come in conflict with Samantha Reyes.
    • Iron Fist (2017): Once he confirms Danny is who he's claiming and not delusional, Edmonds says he'll release him. However, Danny makes him think he's got other delusions talking about being in Kun'Lun, which he says is a part of Heaven and only appears periodically.
  • M*A*S*H: Col. Potter's decisions are always the right ones, and he's not afraid to yell at the Designated Hero when he happens to be in the wrong.
  • District Attorney Devalos on Medium always listens to Allison and thinks about what she says. Though frequently he doesn't immediately do anything with the information, it's not because he doesn't trust her. It's because he knows that there are only certain things he can use in court, and her visions aren't among them.
  • Captain Stottlemeyer of Monk qualifies: he is Adrian Monk's closest friend, he rarely doubts Monk's intuition ("He's the guy."), and he even orders his officers to accommodate Monk's obsessions (one time he has officers pop all the bubbles on a piece of bubble wrap, so Monk can get on with solving the case).
  • NUMB3RS: Don is a textbook example. He's not afraid to give his team members a talking-to when he feels they deserve it, but he by and large treats them as equals and listens to what they have to say, and he even lets Colby back on the team after finding out he was a triple agent. In fact, if he starts shutting his team down or refusing to listen, it's a pretty clear sign that he's in a bad place mentally.
    • The series also shows Charlie to be this as a teacher.
  • Visitors from the corporate headquarters in New York tend to be this in the US version of The Office. David Wallace in particular is willing to take both business and human considerations into his decisions (e.g. his willingness to not go through with Jim's plan in "The Meeting").
    • As reasonable as they are, they also managed to run the company into the ground.
  • Political Animals:
    • President Garcetti and his Secretary of State Elaine often have an antagonistic relationship, but he is usually willing to listen to Elaine's arguments and be convinced to do what's right.
    • Oddly enough, considering he's sleeping with some of his employees, Susan's editor, Alex, otherwise tries to stand up for the journalistic standards of the newspaper. He objects when he suspects Susan's connections with the Hammonds may be biasing her journalism, and later, refuses to let Susan take the fall for him when another reporter retaliates over his refusal to publish Elaine's resignation letter.
  • Pope in Prison Break treats the inmates with a degree of respect. He doesn't talk about them in a demeaning way, as the guards tend to; seems genuinely sorry whenever he has to deliver bad news; and takes abuses of authority seriously. An interesting example because even though viewers are expected to have some sympathy for the protagonists, Pope—understandably—never supports their goal of escape. At least in the first season, since he doesn't have much authority outside the prison.
  • Chief Karen Vick in Psych, as well as being Da Chief, also demonstrates these traits; she puts up with Shawn's antics with a remarkable amount of restraint, considering, and treats him and his "psychic" abilities reasonably and respectfully, although certainly not blindlynote .
    • In later seasons, Head Detective Carlton Lassiter also applies. While still outwardly rude and disbelieving of Shawn, he sees that Shawn gets results and lets more and more of his childishness bynote .
  • Roswell has Sheriff Jim Valenti, once he evolves from Secret Chaser. He's willing to give Max and company the benefit of the doubt when they can't fully explain something, and actively protects them from less well meaning public servants.
  • Agent Cabe Gallows on Scorpion, despite being an archetypal, tough-nose government agent, is quick to trust his socially awkward genius subordinates, often following up on their theories with little to no arguing, and often even brings his own brand of crime-fighting to back them up. The fact that he's also played by Robert Patrick is just a plus.
  • In Sherlock Detective Inspector Lestrade is usually willing to let Sherlock do what he must to solve the mystery at hand, often against his own better judgement.
  • Stargate:
    • President Henry Hayes in Stargate SG-1, with a prejudiced/misguided Evil Vice President (Kinsey).
    • Generals Hammond, O'Neill and Landry too.
      [Dr. Jackson has just finished giving intel about the Jaffa to SG-1 and Gen. Hammond, based on a dream]
      Dr. Jackson: [surprised] So, you believe me, too?
      Gen. Hammond: The things I've heard sitting in this chair…
      • "Sight Unseen" has a great example where Jonas Quinn (still sort of the new guy) claims to see something no one else can (a large bug crawling around). Hammond immediately orders a lockdown and investigation into the matter.
    • It's especially evident once the President finds out about everything Kinsey has done, he shuts him up in order to listen to Dr. Weir and fires him in the same breath. In fact, the President tells him that with so much compromising evidence against him, Kinsey's lucky he's not getting shot for treason.
    • Colonel Caldwell from Stargate Atlantis also fits this trope, especially after they get that Goa'uld out of his head.
    • Richard Woolsey was introduced to the franchise as an Obstructive Bureaucrat, and everyone was worried when he took command of Atlantis in the final season. While he remains an unapologetic bureaucrat, Woolsey does prove himself to be fairly reasonable, and he's willing to bend the rules here and there in exceptional circumstances.
    • The Invisible President who was in office before Henry Hayes. Whenever he's mentioned, it's usually because he's signing off on some ridiculous plan that SG-1 has come up with.
  • Admiral Forrest, Starfleet's CINC on Star Trek: Enterprise is just about the only instance of a consistently supportive admiral in the franchise; the standard is more like Admiral Nechayev from TNG.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • Admiral Ross also had a tendency to be fairly reasonable... In fact, he tended to be the voice of reason when Sisko began to chew scenery.
    • Speaking of DS9, Martok is among a handful of reasonable Klingon leaders seen on screen. Though this becomes a problem when Chancellor Gowron (a thoroughly political Glory Hound) thinks that Martok's victories will eventually allow him to challenge Gowron's position (something Martok, a career soldier of the Empire, has no intention of doing). Indeed, Gowron's paranoia ends up becoming a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy; Worf, furious over Gowron's treatment of Martok, challenges him in combat and wins, then passes the mantle to Martok.
    • Zek, Grand Nagus of the Ferengi, is a greedy capitalist, always looking for the best deal to make money and power. However, as the Nagus, his job is to be the standard-bearer of greed and moral limits. He cannot be the type of man who would tank the entire Ferengi economy as a means to gain personal power. He also won't play favor for Quark because he is dating and in love with Quark's mom because Quark's problems come from the FCA, a combination of IRS and FBI, and while it is in his power to pardon Quark, it wouldn't be good business.
  • Admiral Paris from Star Trek: Voyager is also fairly reasonable, being willing to try out Reg Barclay's highly theoretical way to contact Voyager from across the galaxy and then congratulating him when it works. Then again, to tolerate Barclay for any length of time, he'd have to be patient.
  • Death on Supernatural. Not that he's there to in any way help the Winchesters, or anyone for that matter, but he values order, and is in charge of keeping the cycle of life and death continuing so the chaos doesn't destroy the universe. He is incredibly fair-handed in doing this, allows completely for the events of free will to be followed to their natural conclusion, and doesn't use "destiny" as an excuse to fuck people around. This means that all the Angels and Demons out there who play havoc with the natural order, arrogantly declaring that they can do whatever they want REALLY pisses him off (particularly considering how insignificant they are in comparison to him). As a result, if the Winchesters' aims coincide with his own, he will help them out. He is also the only entity in the whole of existence who Dean actually respects. And considering his exposure to both God and the Devil, that is saying something.
  • The Mexican police chief in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. A couple of American kids get in a fight in a bar, he's ready to let them off with a warning provided they call their parents. Too bad one of the kids is a wanted fugitive.
  • The last episode of Titus, "The Protector", has Christopher and the gang confront the man who molested Erin's niece in the high school washroom with intentions of "discussing" the issue with him. Principal Wells, upon hearing the evidence, proclaims he'll call the police himself... but he'll give them 15 minutes first. Admittedly, more of a Sympathetic Authority Figure than a strictly Reasonable one.
  • President Bartlet of The West Wing is a mild version of one of these, in that he actually listens to practical and moral reasons for his actions, rather than scheming and ignoring the facts for political gain.
  • Cedric Daniels from The Wire. Although McNulty sometimes sees him as an Obstructive Bureaucrat, he is a very competent and reasonable officer dedicated to quality police work.
    • For such a deathly cynical series, The Wire contains a surprising amount of these, from Howard "Bunny" Colvin, Tommy Carcetti at first, Gus Haynes, and Roland Pryzbylewski when the latter becomes a teacher.
  • Principal Larritate in Wizards of Waverly Place. Yes, he comes down hard on Alex, but only because he feels she needs it more. Harper on the other hand gets off with a wrist slap because she's not really a problem, or another trouble maker he lets off lightly because he knows he won't get though to him. He also offers Alex an alternate to being suspended even though she may find the cure worse than the disease.
  • Assistant Director Skinner from The X-Files really does listen to Mulder & Scully if they can back it up.


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