When Season 4 of This Is Us ended, it was under a cloud of uncertainty. The series had been lucky, completing principal photography literal hours before the coronavirus pandemic forced filming across Hollywood to shutdown. But it was unclear if Season 5 would be able to return in the usual late September berth or not. The delay was only by a month, but losing those four weeks meant the holiday break from Thanksgiving to New Years’ is already here. So when does This Is Us return in 2021? Luckily, it comes back quickly.
Five years in, This Is Us has created a steady routine. The premiere debuts on the final Tuesday of September and is always set on Aug. 31, the Big Three’s joint birthday. The fall half of the season, which runs either nine or ten episodes, charts a course over the autumn months, ending with a Thanksgiving-themed episode airing either just before or just after the holiday, depending on the calendar.
The series then takes a six-week break and returns the second Tuesday in January, airing the back half of the 18 episode season, which is eight or nine episodes, depending. In between, there are a few short breaks, usually for election day in November and the SOTU in January, creating a 20-week run per season that ends in March.
Originally, Season 5 was scheduled to debut Nov. 10, one week after the election, since Nov. 3 was Election Day. But with Thanksgiving practically coming on the heels of that, NBC pushed the series forward to the final Tuesday in October, giving fans a double episode, then a week off, and then two more before the holiday break. Since the series began so late, there is no Thanksgiving-themed installment to air on the holiday week. Instead, the show’s six-week break will start early, with no episode on Nov. 24.
That’s bad news for fans, who have gotten all of four installments so far this year. But by starting the six weeks off earlier than usual, NBC can bring the show back earlier once the new year begins, with Season 5, Episode 5, arriving on the first Tuesday of the year, Jan. 5, 2021. Moreover, once the show comes back, there will be 14 episodes to go (plus the regularly scheduled SOTU week off in January), allowing the show to run straight through to mid-April before reaching the finale.
While that might not be the ideal schedule, it does mean fans have much to look forward to in 2021. This is Us Season 5 picks back up with Episode 5 on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
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