‘Atlanta’ is returning for a third season, but not until 2021

The series will officially return for a two-part, 18-episode third season

Atlanta has emerged over the last few years as one of the most creatively successful and critically honored shows on television. But one thing it’s not going to win many awards for anytime soon is speed of production. 

The first season debuted in September of 2016. The second premiered in March of 2018. Even though the second season took a notable creative leap and was one of the most lauded series of that year, there was no word about when a new season might arrive. But now, we know – and it’s not for awhile. 

FX announced late last week that Atlanta has been formally renewed for a third season but that it won’t debut until 2021. According to Variety, the network confirmed at the Television Critics Association press tour Friday that the series will return for a two-part, 18-episode third season, with the first debuting next January, and the second arriving the following Fall. The January season will consist of 10 episodes, followed by eight more in the Fall. 

Some of the season, executive John Landgraf added, will be shot outside of the U.S., with the rest filming in Atlanta

Frustrating as it may be for fans of the series, there’s a good reason or the delay: It’s creator and star, Donald Glover, is a very busy man, between his music career as Childish Gambino, and his various movie roles. The other cast main members, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, and Lakeith Stanfield, have also all been appearing in movies regularly. 

Atlanta is nominally set in the titular city’s hip-hop scene, but it has ambitions and ideas far beyond that. Glover plays Earn, the manager of rising rapper Paper Boi (Henry), while trying to manage his relationship with on-and-off girlfriend Van (Beetz).

While providing some satire of the music industry, the series has reached much further in its ambitious, playing with nontraditional storytelling, genre, and episode lengths – most notably in the “Teddy Perkins” episode in the second season – which put Glover in pounds of makeup to play a mysterious showbiz veteran. 

Atlanta is one of many series heavily influenced by Louis C.K.’s old series Louie, also on FX. But even with that show’s creator persona non grata these days, Atlanta has very clearly inherited the mantle of offbeat, hyper-creative, often experimental television storytelling, on basic cable. 

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