Saturday, January 18, 2014

Detective Munch: A TVCU Quickie

What's a quickie?  See this blog.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Munch is a fictional character played by actor Richard Belzer. Munch first appears on the American crime drama television series Homicide: Life on the Street on NBC. A regular through the entire run of the series, Munch is a cynical detective in the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide unit, and a firm believer in conspiracy theories. He is originally partnered with Det. Stanley Bolander (Ned Beatty). On the cancellation of Homicide in 1999, Munch became a regular on the Law & Order spin offLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit, after Belzer was offered a regular role on the show, and has been with the show all fifteen seasons. On SVU, Munch is a senior detective in the New York Police Department's Special Victims Unit, and is first partnered with Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters), followed by Monique Jeffries (Michelle Hurd), and Fin Tutuola (Ice-T). In the ninth seasonpremiere, Munch is promoted to the rank of Sergeant and occasionally takes on supervisory functions within the department. In season 14, Munch is temporarily reassigned to the Cold Case Unit, after solving a decade-old child abduction case in the episode "Manhattan Vigil". He returns to the squad in "Secrets Exhumed", in which he brings back a 1980s rape-homicide cold case for the squad to investigate.
In the season 15 episode, "Internal Affairs", SVU Captain Donald Cragen informs Detective Olivia Benson that Munch has submitted his retirement papers, stating that a recent case (portrayed in the episode "American Tragedy") had hit him hard. In the following episode, "Wonderland Story", Cragen and the squad throw Munch a retirement party, where past and present colleagues and family members celebrate his career. At the conclusion of the episode, Munch returns to the precinct to gather his belongings, where he and Cragen embrace as Cragen remarks, "you've had one hell of a run, Sergeant Munch."
Munch is based on Jay Landsman, a central figure in David Simon's true crime book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.[2] The character of Munch has appeared in more television series than any other fictional character, appearing in nine series on five networks since the character's debut in 1993. With his retirement in the character's 22nd season on television, he was on longer than Marshal Matt Dillon (Gunsmoke) and Frasier Crane(Cheers and Frasier), both of whom were on television for 20 seasons.

From me:

Toobworld may be the inspiration.  I Love Lucy may be the starting point.  But if you look to the center of the Television Crossover Universe, you will find Detective John Munch.

I may be mistaken, but I do believe that Detective Munch has appeared on more series than anyone else.  The precursor to the character was the stand-up comedy routines of Richard Belzer, the actor who plays Munch.  Much of who Munch is comes from the comedian who ironically plays him in such serious situations.  

The actual character of Munch first appeared in Homicide:  Life on the Street, and while there, he also played the character on Law & Order and the X-Files.  When Homicide ended, Munch transferred and joined the cast in the Law & Order spin-off, Special Victims Unit.  Since then Munch has appeared in a variety of different places.  

And now, a mini-chron:

May 1989--X-FILES--"Unusual Suspects"--Geeks John Fitzgerald Byers, Richard "Ringo" Langley, and Melvin Frohike meet for the first time as the three get involved in the conspiracy world of FBI Agent Fox Mulder, who will become a good friend and associate in the future.  This all occurs in Baltimore, where Detective John Munch of Baltimore HOMICIDE gets assigned to the case, until the FBI takes over.  Ironically, Munch, who is well known for spouting out about conspiracy theories, doesn't believe the trio, who go on to form the LONE GUNMEN.

January 1993 to May 1999--HOMICIDE:  LIFE ON THE STREET--Detective John Munch works for Baltimore Homicide before later transferring to New York's SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.

1996--A VERY BRADY SEQUEL--Detective John Munch is in Los Angeles assisting on a case, and takes time to help out someone calling himself Mike Brady.  This causes some complications, as normally I wouldn't want to include this type of remake/spoof film in the TVCU.  In a very Brady blog, I will reconcile the movies with the original series.  But it's likely that this Mike Brady is the nephew of the Mike Brady from the series.  This film also creates a tie to GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, only it doesn't quite match up with the original series either, so this is some other Gilligan, Professor, and Minnow being referenced.  JEANNIE also appears, and this does seem to be the original Jeannie.  I'll cover these difficult appearances and references in later blogs.

September 1999 to Present--LAW & ORDER:  SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT--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 are their stories. Detective John Munch is one of the Unit detectives,having previously worked for Baltimore HOMICIDE.

March 2000--THE BEAT--"They Say It's Your Birthday"--Our favorite crossover detective John Munch appears.

2000--HOMICIDE:  THE MOVIE--Detective John Munch returns home to Baltimore for one final investigation with the old team.

February 2006--ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT--"Exit Strategy"--Detective John Munch is part of a joint task force to bring down the Bluth family.

August 14, 2006--SESAME STREET--Detective John Munch is seen on Sesame Street.  

May 2007 to Present--PARIS CRIMINAL INQUIRIES--Crime also happens in Europe.  Detective Munch has appeared.  (Of course.)

February 2008--THE WIRE--"Took"--Detective John Munch appears in this episode.

October 7, 2009--JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!--Detective Munch makes an appearance on this show in which Richard Belzer is also one of the guests.  Belzer of course is famous for playing a fictionalized detective based on Munch. 

June 2010--LUTHER--Luther says to his young officer, "Contact Detective Munch in New York; he works in the Special Victims Unit."


LOONIVERSE--Detective Munch (of course) made an appearance on the Simpsons.

And here are some blogs about the Toobworld Detective Munch.

Poobala also has several articles about Munch links.

Here is the IMDB list of Munch's appearances.

And from TV Tropes and Wikipedia:

  • The "Tommy Westphall Universe" (or, alternatively, "The John Munch Principle") ties dozens of television series from the 1960's to the present through the characters of Tommy Westphall from St. Elsewhere (who is revealed to have imagined the entire series in the final scene of the final episode) and John Munch, the Baltimore detective who has made crossover appearances in many television series (including the Law & Order canon, The X-Files andHomicide Life On The Street). Thanks to Munch's crossovers and cameos, as well as shared elements and names that occur between different franchises and series, a theorem was developed showcasing the connections. More than 90% of all television shows are connected via crossover, including the entireAll in the Family franchise, The Wire, the entire Law & Order franchise, every major medical drama made in the 90's and 00's, and many more. Here's a handy chart for those keeping track. And the chart isn't even the full extent of it, since the list doesn't include ANIMATED shows that have crossed over with these series (notably a brief crossover between The Simpsons and The X-Files) increasing the cross overs to just about 99% of all series ever put on television.
  • On other occasions, crossovers between established shows can occur without a network or production commonality, but simply because there is some narrative rationale for the crossover. The appearance of detective John Munch (from NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street) on Fox's The X-Files happened merely because the episode revolved around a crime scene in Baltimore, a logical place for characters on The X-Files to have encountered Munch. Munch would also appear on the TV series Law & Order on NBC in which it had one episode which began on that series in New York City and concluded in Baltimore on Homicide: Life on the Street. Later, when Homicide went off the air in 1999, Detective Munch ends up leaving Baltimore to move to New York, and becoming a permanent character (as New York City Detective Munch) on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
  • The respective police departments and the District Attorney's office in Law & OrderLaw & Order: Special Victims UnitLaw & Order: Criminal IntentLaw & Order: Trial By JuryLaw & Order: Los AngelesNew York UndercoverConviction and Homicide: Life on the Street have occasionally had crossover episodes; Richard Belzer's character, John Munch has become the only fictional character, played by a single actor, to appear on ten different television shows.


Here are some of the more recent posts regarding Detective Munch in the TVCU discussion forum.

I've been thinking of Detective Munch's appearances in Arrested Development and A Very Brady Sequel. Both take place while Munch is working on SVU and in both of these he's working in Los Angeles. In AD, he's billed as Detective Munch and he's working with the CIA to find proof of treason amongst the Bluths. In AVBS, he's only credited as LAPD Detective, and he's working at the city desk. It doesn't make sense that this is the Detective Munch from SVU in these two crossovers, but it would make sense that this is Munch's twin brother, who works as a cop in LA.


Bonus.  Horror Crossover Universe! is actually a place where Munch does not have a presence.  Well, not entirely true.  Law & Order is in the HCU, so Munch does exist.  But only in stories irrelevant to the subject of that book.

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