What we have here is a small, semi-just-for-fun page to the character with the single most appearances outside his own series this side of a Public Domain Character, making him the king of the Intercontinuity Crossover. A police detective originally based in Baltimore and later in New York, in every appearance Munch is portrayed by Richard Belzer, who outside of this role is better known as a stand-up comedian. The shift in location was explained in-show by Munch's decision to retire from the Baltimore police department and put the city behind him for good.
When he left Law & Order: Special Victims Unit early in its 15th season, Belzer had played Munch for 21 years and for 22 consecutive seasons as a regular on two different shows (along with cameos and crossover appearances on 8 others), making him the character who ran longest as a regular on TV, beating out Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane (on Cheers and Frasier), James Arness as Matt Dillon and Milburn Stone as Doc Adams (both of Gunsmoke) as American television's longest running live action character. Munch's departure was explained in-show as his retirement from the NYPD, but he has made occasional appearances since then.
See also: Wolverine Publicity.
Shows to feature John Munch:
As a main character:
As a guest star:
- The X-Files - As the Baltimore cop interrogating the future Lone Gunmen. There's also a hilarious scene in SVU where a reporter refers to Munch and Novak as Mulder and Scully. In one episode of Homicide, Munch mentions that a character is probably watching The X-Files.
- Law & Order: Munch's appearance on the original Law and Order as part of a Homicide cross-over is partly what got him the job on SVU. Belzer originally pitched to Dick Wolf that Munch join Law and Order as Briscoe's new partner. The role had been filled, so Wolf transplanted Munch to SVU instead.
- An episode of the short-lived Police Procedural The Beat.
- Law & Order: Trial by Jury: He appears in one scene of an episode that was already a crossover with The Mothership, passing on some investigation details.
- Arrested Development (credited as himself), as a "Professor of Scrapbooking"
- The Wire (ironically, former Baltimore Police Department detective Jay Landsman, the real-life inspiration for Munch, plays a recurring role). It should also be pointed out that Landsman, playing Lieutenant Mello, was actually in the scene. As was Clark Johnson, formerly Munch's fellow Homicide castmate. If that's not enough, The Wire has a character named Jay Landsman who was also inspired by the real Jay Landsman, and was played by yet a third actor. One rather suspects that David Simon was having a particularly Mind Screwy field day with this one.
- The Sesame Street skit, "Special Letters Unit", a spoof of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, is the one time the character is not played by Richard Belzer. This puppet returns in Elmopalooza as the 'Richard Belzer stunt puppet', accompanied by Belzer himself.
- And then there's the character's appearance in the French version of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which is what tipped the character into a trope-on-his-own territory.
- London police drama Luther gives him a hat-tip: "Send the details to Detective Munch in Special Victims Unit, New York." Munch might get a surprise if he met the eponymous British cop face to face though, since he's the absolute spit of Stringer Bell from The Wire...
- In the book I Am Not A Cop, by Richard Belzer, Richard Belzer is mistaken for John Munch, and asked to help solve a case. A joke book about stupid criminals recounted a story about a robber who stumbled into a taping of Homicide and surrendered to John Munch.
- In an episode of 30 Rock, Belzer and Ice-T show up as their L&O:SVU characters for a joke. It's more than just an incidental cameo because it's clearly not a real episode of SVU.
- Pete Munch, supposedly John's father, is an astronaut who appears in the "Minions of the Moon" backup in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. III, Century: 1969. Like John, he is a conspiracy theorist, but since this is the world of the League, he's actually probably right about most of his ramblings.
- An unnamed late-1980s Baltimore Homicide detective who is clearly John Munch appears in one of the short stories in Kim Newman's Johnny Alucard, along with another unnamed late-1980s Baltimore Homicide detective who is clearly Meldrick Lewis, also from Homicide: Life on the Street.