Richard Belzer Is Leaving 'Law & Order: SVU', Signaling the End of an Era

Law & Order: SVU has been on for a heck of a long time. Fifteen seasons, to be exact. Fifteen. In the human world that's like one One Direction fan, but in the TV world that's, like, one Nicholas Flammel. Did you like that old-timey Harry Potter reference? Good, 'cause you're gonna need it if you're an SVU fan. Why? Because Richard Belzer's announced he's leaving Law & Order on Wednesday night's episode. No, Sergeant Munch!

This show seems to be positively hemorrhaging its notable actors; Law & Order: SVU lost Chris Meloni a couple of seasons ago. Now, Munch will be following in his shoes. And it truly is the end of an era: Belzer's been playing the role of John Munch for 20 years — since 1993's Homicide: Life on the Street. He's set to get his send-off in the show's Oct. 16 episode, and Belzer hasn't ruled out any future guest-starring returns to the show. "I'd be a fool to say I didn't want to do it anymore and I'm certainly not bored with the character because the writing is so good," Belzer said in an interview with The Huffington Post last spring.

SVU is legitimately ancient in comparison to the running times of most TV dramas, so it makes sense that as time goes by actors would move on with their lives — especially after 20 years in one role. But this is still a sad day for SVU fans; Munch is an institution just as much as Law & Order itself is an institution. As more actors jump ship, it kind of feels like the show's being whittled down to its bare bones.

Luckily for us, those bones include Mariska Hargitay, so we're still good.