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 shut down. But it was unclear whether Season 5 would be able to return in the usual late September berth or not. The delay only ended up pushing the season's start date back 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 10 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. With a few other breaks scattered in between (usually for election day in November and the State of the Union address in January), it usually amounts to a 20-week run per season that ends in March.
However, things are different this season. Originally, Season 5 was scheduled to debut Nov. 10, one week after the U.S. 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 for Election Day, and then two more episodes before the holiday break. Since the series began so late into fall, 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 only gotten all four installments of This Is Us Season 5. But they won't have to wait too long for the season to come back. Season 5, Episode 5, will arrive on the first Tuesday of the year: Jan. 5, 2021. 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 lots 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.