William Winger is Jeff Winger's father who left Jeff 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.
Jeff first mentions his father when he temporarily moves in with Abed in his dorm room. He casually tells Abed how his dad would come home drunk, at one time left him at the zoo and also abused and insulted him ("Home Economics").
In Jeff's second year at school, more information is provided by Pierce when he investigates Jeff's dad as part of an elaborate prank to get back at the study group for constantly excluding him. According to the information Pierce was able to find out, William Winger was born in Oklahoma City in 1945 (making him sixty-seven years old), married Jeff's mother Doreen Fitzgerald in 1974, and then divorced her in 1983. Jeff adds that he was a "two-bit con man of very little substance". ("Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking").
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 gets drunk and publicly declares his hatred of the institution of marriage comes from the fact that his father promised to stay forever with his mom but ended up leaving. At the end of the year, Jeff is shown to be searching online for his father ("Introduction to Finality").
In Jeff's senior year at school, he reveals to Britta that he located his father and has his phone number but has yet to contact 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.
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. He returns later and calmly explains to William how wrong his assessment of him is. He proclaims himself to be a broken person all due to Williams abandonment of him and describes the ridiculous and sometimes dangerous lengths he went to in order to replace the loss of his father. William responds to this by faking a heart attack but Jeff sees through the ruse immediately. After finally unloading all the bitter and angry feelings he has towards his father, Jeff leaves having obtained a sense of closure ("Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations").
CastingEditThe Community panel held at the 2012 Comic Con International convention, William Winger is 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 himself and the actor on set.