Thursday 25 May 2017

Guest Writer - Joe Julians: The John Munch Shared Universe

My girlfriend gave up watching the Arrowverse shows last year because she said there was too much to watch and to keep track of. It’s a fair comment; these shows do take up a lot of time and with a new one Black Lightning looking to join the already busy CW line-up next year, it’s only going to need more time dedicated to it. Thankfully, most of these shows have improved this season, with the exception of The Flash, so keeping up with them all isn’t quite the chore it was becoming last year. But it got me thinking, what is the TV shared universe that would take the longest to watch if you started from the beginning? It has to be the Star Trek franchise, right? Wrong.

First, let’s take a look at the Arrowverse. By the end of next month when the 2016-2017 season winds down, we’ll have the following: 5 seasons of Arrow, 3 seasons of The Flash and 2 seasons apiece for Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Now of course as the character of John Constantine showed up in Arrow’s fourth run, we need to include Constantine (1 season). Adding to this is the animated series Vixen (2 seasons) which has featured crossovers both ways.

So, what about the episode counts? Well, Arrow will hit 115 episodes at the close of its current run, thanks to its 23 episodes per season. The Flash will reach 69 episodes with the same episode frequency per season, Legends of Tomorrow with its shorter runs bowed out in October with 33 episodes, whilst Supergirl will reach 42. Constantine ran for one season and consisted of 13 episodes, which leaves Vixen at a much smaller 12 episodes across its two seasons. That gives us 284 episodes to watch, basing 272 of those at a length of 42 minutes, we have 190.4 hours to get through. Throwing in Vixen (based on an average length of 6 minutes per episodes) brings us to a total of 191.6 hours.

Arrowverse Episode Total: 284
Arrowverse Time to Watch: 7.98 Days

So quite a while, but actually less than I expected.

Let’s now look at Star Trek.

Spanning multiple shows and movies, this one took some working out!

  • Star Trek TOS: 3 seasons, 80 episodes (including The Cage)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: 7 seasons, 178 episodes.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: 7 seasons, 176 episodes.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: 7 seasons, 172 episodes.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: 4 seasons, 98 episodes.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series: 2 seasons, 22 episodes.

So that’s a whopping 726 episodes to get through. Time-wise, again basing this on an average length of 42 minutes per episode (forgetting TAS) for a minute, we’re up to 492.8 hours. Throwing in the animated show with an average of 30 minutes per ep, that lifts the total to 503.8. But, with Star Trek, there are the movies to consider, and there’s a lot of them. Currently, we’re up to 13 of them with a combined run time of approximately 1517 minutes, so 25.28 hours.

Star Trek Episode Total: 726
Star Trek Movie Total: 13
Star Trek Time to Watch: 22.04 Days.

I genuinely thought that was the biggest, surely no other television franchise or shared universe could beat that?

Well it has been beaten, by Law and Order, and in particular one character from it, John Munch, played by Richard Belzer.

I like to call this the John Munch shared universe.

Now there are those that don’t think all his appearances are canonical, I’m taking the approach that they are, with the exception of Sesame Street, because, well it’s Sesame Street.

Now, John Munch started out in Homicide: Life on the Street, which on its own clocked up 122 episodes across 7 seasons (plus a TV movie). When that show finished, the character was moved over to the Law and Order franchise, heading up spin-off show Law and Order SVU, connecting those two series to one another. And, well this is where things get complicated.

The original Law and Order series ran for 20 seasons and 456 episodes (it also had a TV movie). Its spin off SVU is still going and is just about to finish its 18th season (it will reach 411 episodes). Its third spin-off show, Criminal Intent (195 episodes), ran for 10 seasons. The fourth, Trial by Jury (13 episodes) only aired for a single run as did the 5th show, Law and Order: LA (22 episodes). There are two new shows in development.

So now we can combine those 2 franchises, and that gives us 1219 episodes. Time-wise that’s 853.3 hours, with the two movies bringing it up to 856.4 hours, or 35.68 days. This is a lot, but we’re not done.

John Munch didn’t just appear in these two shows, he crossed over to several more and as such, there’s an argument to be made that he validates the existence of all these other shows within the continuity that Homicide and Law and Order exist in.

His character also appeared in an episode of The X-Files, a sixth season instalment called "Unusual Suspects". That show originally ran for 9 seasons and consisted of 202 episodes and a movie. A second movie was released in 2008 before the show returned to the small screen in 2016 for a 6-episode revival. The runtime for all of that clocks up to 149.35 hours. The Lone Gunmen and Millennium are two more shows existing in this universe, the former only managing 13 episodes, whilst the latter made it to 67. Altogether, that’s 200.85 hours, or 8.36 days. Combine that with the Homicide and Law and Order shows and we’re up to 63435 minutes, or 1057.25 hours, 44.05 days.

It doesn’t stop there.

Munch also appeared in the short-lived show The Beat. Whilst 13 episodes were made, only 6 aired, and as far as I can tell the remaining 7 episodes have never been released, so we’ll call this one 6. That’s 252 minutes, or 4.2 hours.

Next up there’s comedy show Arrested Development. Munch showed up in the third season. That show ran for 4 seasons, its first 3 averaging at 21 minutes per episode whilst its fourth run on Netflix varied. Combined, let’s say 1602 minutes, or 26.7 hours.

And then there’s The Wire. Munch appeared in a fifth season scene in that, so therefore, we include it. It ran for 60 episodes. If we base 59 of those at an average runtime of 57 minutes, and then include the extended finale of 93 minutes, we get 3456 minutes, or 57.6 hours, so another 2.4 days.

Combining all of that, we come to a minute count of 68745, an hour count of 1145.75, and a day count of 47.73. Phew, well at least we’re done. Except, believe it or not, we’re not. Not even close.

Going back to Homicide, that show crossed over with Chicago Hope during its fourth run. Hope ran for 6 seasons and gave us 141 episodes. Basing them on an average of 43 minutes, we get 6063 minutes, so that’s 101.05 hours and another 4.21 days.

Chicago Hope crossed over with the show Picket Fences, which incidentally nearly crossed over with The X-Files for the second season episode "Red Museum" (The X-Files is about to get included in all this anyway). Fences ran for 4 seasons and 88 episodes, giving us an increase of 3696 minutes, 61.6 hours, 2.56 days.

Now, back to Law and Order. The original show had a crossover with Conviction, not the recent Hayley Atwell failure, but the 2006 failure. That show ran for 13 episodes, so again lifts our count by 546 minutes which is 9.1 hours. It also featured a crossover with In Plain Sight. That lasted 5 seasons with a total of 61 episodes. Basing this on a 46 minute per episode average, we lift the overall minute count by 2806, an hour count of 46.7 and a day count of 1.94.

Now there’s yet another show that the Law and Order franchise crossed over with. SVU featured a crossover with Chicago PD, which is itself a spin-off from Chicago Fire. The franchise is still going and now has two more shows to add to its numbers, Chicago Med and Chicago Justice. Fire will reach 115 episodes at the end of this season, PD will hit 84, Med reaches 41, whilst newcomer Justice will finish the season on 13. So that’s 253 episodes, 10626 minutes, 177.1 hours, 7.37 days.

We also have St. Elsewhere to consider. Two characters from that series showed up in Homicide despite the former concluding several years before the latter even began. St Elsewhere ran for 6 seasons and produced 137 episodes, basing those on 46 minutes each, we get 6307 minutes, 105.03 hours and 4.37 days.

Next up there’s New York Undercover. Now this one didn’t actually feature any crossovers with other shows as far as I know, but creator Dick Wolf has said that it definitely takes place in the same universe, so, we have to include it. It ran for 89 episodes, again, basing that on a 46-minute run time, we go up by 4094 minutes, 68.23 hours and 2.84 days.

Now we go to Deadline, a series set at the fictitious New York Ledger, a paper featured in the Law and Order franchise so again, needs to be included. It didn’t last long. 13 episodes was its lot which gives us 546 minutes or 9.1 hours.

Finally, there’s Jo. A little-known French series that, believe it or not, does exist within the fictional world along with all these other shows. The show went along during its brief run as its own thing, before pulling out a villain from Law and Order: Criminal Intent in its final episode, thus combining the two worlds. The eight 46 minute episodes give us a final increase of 368 minutes/6.13 hours.

Now keep in mind this is just live action non-puppet related shows. I’m not including things like The Simpsons crossover with The X-Files, or John Munch turning up on Sesame Street, if you want to think of them as canon then good luck to you opening all the doors that animation will present!

So our final total for the John Munch fictional universe is:

103,797 minutes
1729.95 hours
72.08 days.

So if you start this tomorrow, and you don’t work, you don’t do anything else but watch this and sleep, say, 9 hours sleep a day, it will take you 115 days to watch the lot. I don’t advise it.

The Arrowverse doesn’t seem so bad now, eh?

Joe Julians is an upcoming author with his first book, Forces, due for release in summer 2017.

You can also find him on his own site at or on Twitter @joepjulians. He finds himself entertaining even at 140 characters or less.

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