Update: Keep up to date on everything Schwifty with our Rick and Morty Season 4 Guide.
With Rick and Morty Season 4 in an unexpected state of limbo, there's one question every fan is asking about the Adult Swim behemoth: when is the earliest we could realistically see the show's next set of episodes?
Created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, Rick and Morty's mix of high brow science fiction concepts and surreal, scatological comedy has made it Adult Swim's breakout series, a cultural force approaching the likes of Family Guy and South Park. The show's wildly successful third season wrapped in October 2017, and yet there's been virtually no news on the fourth season. Alarm bells began to ring when Dan Harmon let slip on Twitter that the Rick and Morty hasn't even been officially renewed for Season 4, with Roiland chiming in a few days later to confirm that bewildering bit of information. Harmon clarified on Kevin Smith's Smodcast that contract negotiations for the fourth season have proved to be more complicated than anticipated.
Harmon has seemed to suggest no official work has begun on the show's fourth season, which begs the question: how soon could we realistically see more of the Sanchez/Smith duo? There are a lot of factors to take into consideration here, and none of them suggest the new season is anywhere close to an airdate.
For his part, Harmon doesn't seem particularly worried that the contract negotiations - which are related to Adult Swim owners Turner Broadcasting System - are going to reach an impasse. It's in everyone's interest to get the show back into production, and there's simply no way to make Rick and Morty Season 4 without Harmon and Roiland: actual cancellation is highly unlikely. Assuming a best-case scenario where the contract negotiations are worked out in the near future, Harmon and Roiland would have to assemble a writers room and break the season, which Harmon has admitted has become an increasingly difficult process as the show has gone on.
Indeed, Harmon has been candid about the fact that he and Roiland occasionally clashed over the show's direction during the third season's production. Rick and Morty's fairly unusual creative process - there's usually at least one episode a season that relies heavily on Roiland improvising in the recording booth - only adds to the length of the production cycle.
It's also somewhat telling that we don't know the nature of the contract negotiations. Money is likely a factor, as the show became a full-blown sensation in its third year - you can buy Pickle Rick candy bars and Funko figures at pretty much every department store - but it's also likely that the length of the production cycle is being negotiated as well. There was a year and a half wait between the first and second seasons, and then a two-year gap between the second and third seasons. Shows like Game of Thrones or Westworld - sprawling, massively expensive live-action productions - can get away with multi-year gaps between seasons like that. Rick and Morty's excuse for that sort of delay is a lot shakier, as its animation process is not a particularly time intensive one, and seems to come down to the fact that Harmon and Roiland take a gargantuan amount of time to write the show - something that's just being extended this time due to a late start.
Series writer Ryan Ridley has previously suggested that late 2019 might be when we see the fourth season, though that seems optimistic at this point. Ridley made that claim in January, hinting at the issues between the show's producers and the network. The fact that those issues are dragging on well into 2018, coupled with the show's increasingly labored production process, suggests it may be 2020 before we get another glimpse of Mr. Poopybutthole.