After three years back on the small screen and a brand new motion picture, the TMNT franchise is showing no signs of slowing down. With season three of the hit TV series set to wrap up later this month, it’s only a matter of time before season four gets started and new exciting adventures begin in earnest. While there’s no known premiere date just yet, and the amount of information available for season four is minimal, what is known could be extremely impactful for not only the show but for the franchise’s forward development.
At Comic-Con this past year, the show runners announced that season four would have the turtles leaving Earth and heading for space. This would mark the return of several familiar foes from TMNT’s long history, including the Triceratons and Lord Dregg. However, no information was revealed as to why the boys head off into space. More importantly, who – if anyone – goes with them? Will Master Splinter and the others be left behind? Plus, if the turtles are comfortable leaving the planet entirely, does that mean Shredder and the Foot will be more or less neutralized within the remaining few episodes of season three?
Along with the development of a brand new story to keep things fresh, the show will welcome several famous actors to the fold as voices for the new characters that will join this incarnation. Adding more star power to the season seems like a great idea now that ratings have evened out, and predictability for the show’s schedule has disappeared. If there was ever a way to draw viewers back in after an unexpected three-month hiatus, it would be with an awesome actor joining the upcoming episode. Certainly fans of other franchises would be happy to hear Michael Dorn or David Tennant on-screen.
Perhaps the most important piece of information, however, is that season four was only picked up for 20 episodes. Seasons 1-3 were all 26 episodes each, fairly standard orders for a cartoon show. However, with season four only coming in at 20 episodes, there are a few things to be wary of moving forward. First, it likely means that the show isn’t the powerhouse anymore that it was early on in its return. Ratings have likely dwindled to a much more standard number for the timeslot, and executives are starting to see it as easier to simply produce less of the show to save some money. Because of the shortened season, there’s no guarantee that new episodes will begin almost immediately in October, and as the winter and spring progress the hiatus time between new episodes may significantly increase. Which, of course, then turns things into a self-fulfilling prophecy: Making less of the show because not enough people are watching means that fewer people will probably be watching when sporadic new episodes are on TV, which will in turn inspire even less continued confidence in the show. Yes, it’s already been renewed for a fifth season, but the show’s powerful impact on Nickelodeon’s ratings has dwindled, and who knows what that will mean for the show’s future.
On the other hand, the best thing about a 20-episode season is that there will be significantly fewer episodes that don’t accomplish anything. The season-long story will have to be sharp and tight, with no room wasted on side adventures that have no ultimate bearing. This alone could easily be enough to reinvigorate the show and turn things around somewha.
While there are still plenty of question marks for the new season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the fact that it’ll be back for at least two more years is exceptionally exciting. Whatever the future holds for the show and the franchise, let’s enjoy what we have while it’s here, and remember that this animated series is one of the best incarnations of the turtle team that has been produced.