When This Is Us premiered on NBC back in 2016, it was unusual for a broadcast series. The series attempted to bridge the 13-episode prestige TV model of cable with the 22-24 installment weekly broadcast drama model. In finding the happy medium, the show also split the count, going with 18 episodes a season. But with the coronavirus pandemic causing so many delays over the 2020-2021 TV season, fans are starting to get concerned about how many episodes This Is Us Season 5 will have, because it looks like it will be slightly shorter than initially planned.
When NBC renewed This Is Us after Season 3, the network took the unusual step of announcing three seasons were greenlit, not just one. It was surprising but not unheard of to do multi-season renewals for top-rated shows. (The Big Bang Theory did it, for example.) So, with Season 6 confirmed to be the last, it was reported the show was being renewed for 54 episodes, or three sets of 18.
But then the pandemic hit. The series was initially lucky; Season 4 had just finished filming the finale, meaning all 18 episodes would air without production shutdowns. But Season 5 has been stop and start, including a three-week unplanned break in January after Episode 6, when officials from the city of Los Angeles asked production studios to close due to COVID concerns.
Fans assumed the series would continue the plan to make the remaining 12 episodes when the show picked back up. But it seems that will not be the case. With 13 episodes aired, NBC announced a month-long break, stating in its Episode 14 promo that the "final three episodes" would return starting May 11. That would make Season 5 a total of 16 episodes long, not the previously planned 18. It also means Season 5 will be the shortest season of This Is Us to date.
With Season 5 shorted two episodes, fans will inevitably wonder whether Season 6 will make up the numbers. The show's final season is currently planned for 18 episodes. But if there are two extra hours that series creator Dan Fogelman could shift to next year, that would make the show's swan song a blowout season. Otherwise, it seems that instead of 54 installments in the second half of the Pearson family's story, there will only be 52.
Either way, fans are anxious for the series to return and wrap up Season 5. This Is Us returns to NBC on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at 9 p.m. ET.