This Is Us creator says the show will 'attack' pandemic 'head on' in season 5
It’s still unknown when This Is Us will return for its fifth season, but one thing is clear: the pandemic that has been delaying the start of production will be tackled on the air.
Answering a fan question about the possibility of addressing the spread of COVID-19 in the show’s current-day storylines, Dan Fogelman tweeted on Sunday: “Yes on Covid. We've decided to attack things head on. Very proud of @ThisIsUsWriters.”
This Is Us, of course, is just one of many shows whose production has been impacted by the coronavirus. While filming on season 4 wrapped before Hollywood switched into shutdown mode in March, filming on season 5 remains on hold, leaving the show's premiere date up in the air. (The show traditionally returns in late September.) The TIU writers have been working away via the wonder of Zoom, and Fogelman explained to EW recently that they were trying to figure out a way to address the ever-changing pandemic that felt authentic to the spirit of the show without alienating fans who seek a weekly escape via the Pearsons. “It's a really huge challenge for us," he said. "I keep saying, 'As if juggling this show with 18,000 timelines and characters isn’t hard enough.' It really is a complicated question. It's been complicated for all shows. I can't tell you the amount of debate that has gone into everything from our show existing in a world that corona has not happened, like many shows are going to choose to do, to making the entire first nine episodes all happening during a quarantine period in our off-season. We've been all over the map. I think we have a plan that splits the balance.... But you know, we're fluid writers. We have the ability to adjust as needed.”
Fogelman also said in his tweet that however the virus is addressed, it won’t change the show’s end game: "Same planned ending. Same route to get there." (The creator has previously indicated that season 6 will be the show’s last.) “We have a carefully crafted plan through six seasons of the television show that hundreds of people have now devoted for four-plus years of their lives executing," he told EW. "And we're going to execute that plan, no matter what's happening in the world. What's happening in the world may shift the details of how things happen, but the big moves continue to happen — and actually potentially heighten and make better the television show then maybe some of our initial plans, because that's our job. Here are the new rules we've been given. How do we continue to try and top ourselves and make things even better than they were?”
No doubt, the world looks much different than it did when This Is Us filmed its season 4 finale, factoring in the racial reckoning happening through the Black Lives Matter movement. Given that TIU is no stranger to thoughtfully tackling race issues, it seems logical to recognize this pivotal point in time, and Fogelman seemed to echo that sentiment when asked how he might address both COVID and Black Lives Matter. "All shows are figuring out right now how current world events play into their shows," he told EW. "We have always tried to attack things that affect the day-to-day lives of us as a community, meaning Americans. We've tried to, where possible, right or wrong, keep away from world events and particularly politics. This moment in time that we find ourselves in is something different. If we attack it, it's something we want to attack the right way. We do feel uniquely suited in our show to kind of mark this moment. But it's complicated territory. We've had a complicated couple of months in our Zoom writers' room, that I feel are kind of unique to our writers' room, and the kind of openness with which we converse and lay things bare. So I have a plan. Much of it will be dictated by when our show is ultimately shooting and airing, and that's really all I can say. But we're mindful and we're hopeful that we can get something right here."
Exactly when they'll have a chance to do that remains, as we said, a question mark. Fogelman said he and his fellow producers will move forward when there's a plan in place that ensures the health of the cast and crew. "A lot of thought and care needs to go into the show because I have hundreds of people working on this show and safety is paramount," he said. "But we're all anxious to get back to work. We love what we do. We love what we make. We think we offer a small, small, small service to people by creating new material that allows husbands and wives not to have to talk for an hour on Tuesday nights once in a while. And so our hope is that we can get back, but we are well aware of how small we are in the big wide expanse that is our universe."
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.