Richard Belzer retires Detective Munch

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Detective John Munch will retire on "Law and Order: SVU"

Richard Belzer debuted the role in January 1993

The character has appeared on multiple TV shows

CNN  — 

After 21 years of arrests with a side of wisecracks, Detective John Munch will retire Wednesday night on “Law and Order: SVU.”

Richard Belzer debuted the role in January 1993, with NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Never the star, but usually the character with the best lines, Munch survived the cancellation of that show – and much more.

Between the reprisal of the role on various “Law and Order” spin-offs and his many guest spots in character, Belzer parlayed Munch into one of the longest running roles in TV history.

As Munch, Belzer appeared on FOX’s “The X-Files” in 1993, HBO’s “The Wire” in 2002 and shows like “Arrested Development,” “The Beat” and “30 Rock.”

Munch appeared in nine different television shows, and that doesn’t even include the time “Sesame Street” turned Munch into a muppet to solve alphabet-related crimes in the Special Letters Unit, or when he popped up on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Of course, the irony is if you were to design a character who would run for more than two decades on television, you probably wouldn’t create someone like Munch.

The original character, like much of “Homicide,” was at least partially based on a real-life detective, but Munch was given an edge by comedian-turned-actor Belzer.

The always anti-establishment Belzer brought a counterculture element to the police precinct with the offbeat detective. The romantically challenged, conspiracy theorist, temperamental Munch was a cop concerned with civil rights and a penchant for self-deprecation.

Not your typical TV fare. Which is probably why he endured all these years.

Belzer has been enjoying the attention his character’s retirement is getting.

He’s been tweeting out his thanks, saying, “Am I one of the luckiest actors in the world or what? Between my loving fans and an adoring press-I am virtually speechless.”

Though he’s not sure he’ll be able to watch Munch’s retirement episode because he’ll be too emotional, he’s helpfully suggesting his fans play a drinking game in which they take a swig every time someone says his character’s name during the show.

Fear not, Munch fans, this isn’t completely the end of the line. Belzer is expected to have a cameo or two on “SVU” and another crossover opportunity could present itself down the road. (FOX’s police comedy “Brooklyn Nine Nine” seems like a great choice, and it stars former “Homicide” castmate Andre Braugher).

At least for one more night, the streets are safe.