Long-serv­ing TV de­tec­tive turns in badge af­ter 20 years

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Pa­trick Kevin Day

ON Wed­nes­day night’s Law & Or­der: Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit, Det. John Munch, played by Richard Belzer, re­tired. And in a fit­ting send­off, the fic­tional cops of New York’s 16th Precinct threw him a roast. Belzer’s time play­ing the per­pet­u­ally sun­glasses-wear­ing de­tec­tive is unique in broad­cast tele­vi­sion, in that he’s played the same char­ac­ter on 10 TV shows across five chan­nels and 20 years. While Belzer’s run ties with Kelsey Gram­mer as Dr. Frasier Crane and James Arness as Mar­shal Matt Dil­lon on Gun­smoke for long­est por­trayal of a sin­gle char­ac­ter on TV, the breadth of Belzer’s ap­pear­ances sets him in a league of his own. Belzer was known pri­mar­ily as a standup co­me­dian when he was cast as a de­tec­tive in the highly ac­claimed NBC po­lice drama Homi­cide: Life on the Street. The show de­buted in 1993 and aired for seven sea­sons. He joined the cast of Law & Or­der: Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit in 1999 af­ter Homi­cide ended and has played Munch there for 15 sea­sons, ris­ing from se­nior de­tec­tive to sergeant and fi­nally on to DA spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tor in his fi­nal episode. But in ad­di­tion to be­ing a reg­u­lar on those se­ries, he’s also made guest ap­pear­ances as Munch on 30 Rock, The Wire, Law & Or­der: Trial By Jury, The Beat, The X-Files, Jimmy Kim­mel Live, Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment and, one of Belzer’s favourites, Se­same Street. In a farewell es­say he wrote for the Huff­in­g­ton Post, Belzer took spe­cial note of the sun­glasses-wear­ing John Munch pup­pet that Se­same Workshop built for the oc­ca­sion. While Belzer is in­deed leav­ing the show, a spokesman for NBC in­di­cated that the door was open for the Munch char­ac­ter to work with the SVU squad in the fu­ture. To com­mem­o­rate Munch’s re­tire­ment, NBC has re­leased the ex­tended ver­sion of the Munch roast. Fans of the char­ac­ter’s long his­tory should keep a spe­cial eye out for a cameo from Clark John­son, who played Munch’s Bal­ti­more col­league, Meldrick Lewis, on Homi­cide.

EVAN AGOSTINI/INVISION

Richard Belzer played Det. John Munch on Law & Or­der: SVU for 15 sea­sons.

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