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William Winger close up
Portrayed by: JAMES BROLIN
First appearance: "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
Last appearance: "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
Date of birth: 1945
Home town: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Occupation: CON MAN
Reason for visit: FAMILY REUNION


My father was a two-bit con man of very little substance who couldn't leave a trail if he wanted to.
— Jeff Winger, "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking".

4x5 Promotional photo 7
William Winger portrayed by James Brolin.
William Winger is Jeff Winger's father who left his son at a very young age. Jeff's abandonment issues as well as his animosity towards his father because of it had been obliquely referenced by him during his time at Greendale. William is eventually contacted by Jeff in order to get some closure. His first appearance was in the Season Four episode "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations". He was portrayed by actor James Brolin.

Character history[]

Season One[]

Jeff first mentions his father when he temporarily moved in with Abed in his dorm room. They were both watching television and remarked how the device was more of a father figure to them than their biological ones. While making his comparison Jeff told Abed about how his dad would often come home drunk. He also mentioned the one time his father took him to the zoo and then forgot him there, a precursor to his eventual abandonment of his family. Jeff casually described William as both physically and verbally abusive towards him ("Home Economics").

Season Two[]

In the study group's second year at Greendale, William's name is mentioned when Jeff is referred to as "Jeff the liar, son of William the barely known" ("Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"). Pierce uncovers more information about William when he investigates Jeff's dad as part of an elaborate prank to get back at the study group for constantly excluding him. He found out that William Winger was born in Oklahoma City in 1945 (making him at the time sixty-seven years old), married Jeff's mother Doreen Fitzgerald in 1974, and then divorced her in 1983. Jeff added his own details and referred to his father as a "two-bit con man of very little substance" ("Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking").

Season Three[]

In Jeff's third year at school, Jeff realizes he has serious daddy issues after confronting Pierce's father Cornelius Hawthorne and accidentally causing his death ("Advanced Gay"). Jeff announces to the group he is in therapy ("Regional Holiday Music") and later explains how he talked about his father and punched a few pillows before being prescribed some anti-anxiety meds ("Contemporary Impressionists"). During Shirley's wedding rehearsal, Jeff got drunk and publicly declared his hatred of the institution of marriage. This stemmed from the fact that his father broke his promise to stay with his mom forever. At the end of the year, Jeff is shown to be searching online for his father ("Introduction to Finality").

Season Four[]

In Jeff's senior year at school, he revealed to Britta that he located his father and had his phone number but hadn't contacted him. After some contemplation, he later calls him ("Paranormal Parentage"). He learns he has a half-brother named Willy Jr. and he and his father agree to have Thanksgiving dinner together. When Jeff arrives at his fathers place he becomes overwhelmed by the situation and flees. He contacts Britta who had been encouraging him to see his dad and lies about the reunion claiming to have gotten closure. He then learns that she knows he is lying as she is there at his father's house. Annoyed that she interjected herself into a personal matter, he returns to the house. He confronts Britta who is apologetic about her meddling in his private affair. He then steels his resolve to see this through. Jeff knocks on the front door where he is greeted by his father William Winger.

4X5 William Winger finally appears
Jeff's Dad, the two-bit con-man.
After some awkwardness, Jeff and William create some ground rules for the dinner and agree to try and not turn the situation into an overly emotional affair. William introduces Jeff to his half brother, Willy Jr., who is immediately jealous of him. William and Jeff settle into a comfortable dynamic and discuss what's been going on since they last saw each other. William is shown to be overly critical and slightly abusive of Willy Jr. and praises Jeff for having turned out so well adjusted. He then suggests that leaving him as a kid seems to have made him a stronger person, particularly in comparison to his half-brother Willy. Jeff is angered by his "compliment" and storms out.

4X5 Jeff and William
I know we said no mushy stuff...
Later, William is getting wine glasses from the kitchen when Jeff suddenly returns. He calmly explains to his father how wrong his assessment of him is. Jeff proclaims himself to be a broken person who composes fake text messages on his phone rather rather then open himself up to his friends. He credits William with that who scoffs at the notion but Jeff cuts him off before he can defend himself and continues. Jeff describes the ridiculous and sometimes dangerous lengths he went to in order to replace the loss of his father. In seventh grade, he lied to his classmates about having just had an appendicitis just so someone could worry about him. He needed to make a scar so it would look legit so he grabbed a pair of scissors and made one.

S04E05-Jeff's scar
The Dean wishes he could be there ...
He shows off the scar to his father and credits him with that as well. William is about to respond when he suddenly keels over and drops the wine glasses which shatter as they hit the floor. Willy Jr. calls out to his father but both Jeff and Britta know better having seen Pierce pull this stunt many times before. Jeff looks on with disappointment and asks his father if he is faking a heart attack. Realizing it's not working, William abandons the ruse and admits the charade "was kind of a Hail Mary." Jeff sighs heavily and wishes his father a happy Thanksgiving before leaving with Britta ("Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations").

S04E05-William Winger Piercing
William Winger "Piercing".



At the Community panel held at the 2012 Comic Con International convention, it was announced that William Winger was slated to make appearance in Season Four. Harmon had stated in a few interviews that his dream casting for the part was always Bill Murray. Bill Murray played the character of John Winger in "Stripes" whose name and personality Harmon said was one of the main inspirations for Jeff Winger. It was confirmed on September 18, 2012 by TV Line that Jeff's father would be played by James Brolin. On the same day Joel McHale tweeted a photo of them on set. In a November 14, 2013 interview with Antenna Free TV, James Brolin admitted that he took the role because his daughter ordered him to.

Joel McHale tweeted a photo of himself and his onscreen dad.