In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit …
These words, of course, are spoken right before the credits roll on NBC’s long-running procedural Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. And for the first time since the series debuted on Sept. 20, 1999, Detective John Munch will not be part of their stories: Richard Belzer, the lanky comedian-actor who’s played Munch over two long decades, is leaving the show.
The show announced Belzer’s departure in typical bombshell fashion — by writing the news into the script. At the conclusion of the Oct. 9 episode, Capt. Cragen (Dann Florek) told a shocked Det. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), “Munch put in his papers.” While the precinct will host a retirement party for Munch on SVU‘s October 16th episode, it’s likely that fans will see the beloved sergeant on Law & Order again. The Huffington Post reports that Belzer is expected to make recurring appearances.
It is fitting that Munch would stick around a bit longer as Belzer’s iconic role is one of the longest-running characters on television. The street-wise and cynical detective first appeared on the Baltimore-based Homicide: Life in the Street back in 1993. Munch did a few guest shots on Law & Order (original recipe) in 1996 and 1997 and when Homicide wrapped, Munch moved to New York City and joined the SVU team. During his tenure he made appearances on other arms of the Law & Order franchise, including the short-lived Law & Order: Trial By Jury. Not limiting himself to the Dick Wolf-verse, the character has also popped up on series ranging from Fox’s The X-Files to Arrested Development to HBO’s The Wire and NBC’s 30 Rock — Munch has appeared in more TV shows (nine) than any other fictional character.
We hope you’re not too comfortable in retirement, Detective — we want to see you back in the squad room real soon.