Richard Belzer's trajectory as a TV star was unexpected and haphazard. A respected stand-up comic for much of his career, he found global fame on the screen thanks to a role in a gritty police drama.
While Belzer was no stranger to the screen, having appeared in movies, TV dramas, and sitcoms over the years, he wasn't top of mind for the edgy and sophisticated broadcast TV cop drama Homicide: Life on The Street until an appearance on Howard Stern's radio show caught producer Barry Levinson's ear. He liked the way Belzer spoke. Levinson is well-known for casting comedians in his films, so it wasn't a huge creative leap for him to think of Belzer as Det John Munch.
After seven years on Homicide, Belzer took the character over to the long-running Law & Order: SVU where he was playing the character until only recently as health concerns became an issue. Belzer also played the character in a number of other TV shows (notably The X-Files), sitcoms (among them 30 Rock), and puppet shows (Sesame Street). He has played Munch on more shows than any actor has with the same character.
I first noticed Belzer playing Inspector Henderson on the show Lois & Clark and was always capitvated by him. On screen Belzer had this great energy about him that felt different to anyone else on screen - his line delivery was wonderfully distinct. In Australia, we were a bit late getting Homicide: Life on The Street, but it arrived on TV here soon-after we got Lois and Clark and immediately young teenage me noticed Belzer on the screen. I've been a fan ever since.
Richard Belzer passed away at age 78.
Belzer died early Sunday at his home in Bozouls in southwest France, writer Bill Scheft, a longtime friend of the actor, told The Hollywood Reporter. “He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘Fuck you, motherfucker,'” Scheft said.
Butchering Sleeping Beauty
Nonsense opinion piece of the week goes to Aussie filmmaker Julia Leigh, director of Sleeping Beauty. Here she is penning this op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald:
For some ungodly reason – well, a fiscal reason – the majority-publicly-funded broadcaster sees fit to jam advertisements into feature films. It’s a barbaric practice that would never fly in other countries. A Get-Up petition back in 2015 raised some 60,000 signatures in protest, to no avail.
Leigh is upset that her film has ads in it when streamed on an ad-supported service? Baffling. If Leigh is so concerned about ads interrupting her film, she cound encourage her friends to instead stream the film on a platform like Apple TV where for a $3.99 rental, the film can be viewed uninterrupted. Or better yet, use the weight she has to get silly opinion pieces like this published and instead call for more government funding for SBS so that they don't need to run ads during her movie.
Should Leigh ever make another film (Sleeping Beauty from 2011 remains her only film as director), perhaps she should insist that anyone funding the movie stipulate that her film will never be licensed to an ad-supported platform. I can't imagine much enthusiasm for that, but give it a good go, Leigh.
The good news is that Australians do have access to SBS On Demand, a free to view platform that streams a very deep library of art-house movies that would otherwise not find a home in Australia. It is a deep library that is unlike pretty much any other service in the world. Where else can anyone stream Sleeping Beauty now for free?
Okay New York Post, you win
Nothing else I read this week will be as compelling as this headline.
- RIP George T Miller. The Australian director (not to be confused with the other Australian director named George Miller) was best known for directing The Man From Snowy River. Read: Deadline
- The second half of season one of The Nevers now lives on Tubi... but good luck trying to watch it. Read: Polygon
- Explaining the IMAX-enhanced aspect ratio of Marvel films on Disney+. Read: Polygon
- Johnny Knoxville says s3 of The White Lotus will be in Japan. An authoritative source. Read: LA Times
- Are you looking for a lightweight list of the 15 best black sitcoms from the 90s? TV Insider has you covered. Read: TV Insider
- Writer Brandon Yu re-evaluates Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 20 years later. Read: NYT
- RIP Gerald Fried - he was the composer of shows like Star Trek and Gilligan's Island. Read: Variety
- With declining value in syndicated series, Warner Bros has cancelled Judge Mathis and The People's Court. Read: TV Insider
- Husband and wife actor-comedians June Diane Raphael and Paul Scheer will star in a new improv comedy for CBS. Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman is behind it. Read: Deadline
- M3gan will debut on Peacock with a standard and extended cut on Feb 24. Read: The Verge
- Both Big Shots and Mighty Ducks: Game Changers have been cancelled by Disney+ after 2 seasons. Read: THR
- Paramount+ has cancelled Blood & Treasure after 2 seasons. Read: TV Line
Shadow & Bone returns to Netflix March 16 for season 2.
That's it for today. And now on with the week...