The world has just lost the star of TV’s biggest shared universe that puts the MCU to shame

Images via NBC/Marvel Studios

On Feb. 19, actor Richard Belzer died at the age of 78. The loss of the beloved star, a familiar face to any fan of American television, caused an outpouring of grief from his colleagues, including those from his legendary stint as part of the Law & Order family. In the role of the no-nonsense NYPD detective John Munch, Belzer memorably appeared on the first 15 seasons of Law & Order: SVU, as well as occasional guest spots on sister shows Law & Order and Law & Order: Trial by Jury.

This is just the beginning of Belzer and Munch’s surprisingly expansive impact on the small screen. Belzer actually holds the record for being the only actor to play the same character across 10 distinct TV series, with the shows in question stretching across multiple networks and multiple genres. Belzer debuted as Munch on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Streets. Once that concluded after seven seasons in 1997, he was invited to join then-new spinoff, SVU, in 1999, which cemented his iconic status.

Prior to his SVU transfer, however, Belzer had already cameod on another series, appearing as Munch in a 1997 episode of Fox’s The X-Files. This thereby confirms that the otherwise down-to-earth Law & Order franchise shares a universe with the alien-busting Mulder and Scully. By extension, The Simpsons takes place in the same world, thanks to Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny’s roles in that same year’s “The Springfield Files” crossover. In 2016, Munch turned up in animated form himself in an episode of American Dad, proving yet again that The Simpsons shares a universe with Seth McFarlane’s shows.

Munch adds another Fox sitcom into this universe thanks to Belzer’s 2006 guest spot on Arrested Development. Returning to the grittier end of things, Munch likewise showed up in a 2008 episode of HBO’s The Wire. Brilliantly, BBC’s Luther later saw DCI John Luther mention his NYPD SVU contact Munch, throwing that one into the mix as well (despite Idris Elba already playing Stringer Bell on The Wire). Belzer also cameoed on UPN’s short-lived cop drama The Beat in 2000.

In addition, Belzer made non-canon appearances as himself playing Munch in episodes of PBS’s Sesame Street, NBC’s 30 Rock, and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, as well as a skit on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! The icing on the cake is that Homicide‘s own crossovers with St. Elsewhere link the ever-expanding Munchverse with the truly mind-blowing Tommy Westphall Universe. We can even link Munch into the Marvel Universe, too, thanks to a comic book cameo in 2016’s Spider-Man/Deadpool #6.

Rest in peace, Richard Belzer. Television will truly not be the same without you.

About the author


Christian Bone

Christian Bone is a Staff Writer/Editor at We Got This Covered and has been cluttering up the internet with his thoughts on movies and TV for a full decade, ever since graduating with a Creative Writing degree from the University of Winchester. He can usually be found writing about anything Marvel or DC. And yet, if you asked him, he'd probably say his favorite superhero film is 'The Incredibles'.