Fox’s entertainment president Kevin Reilly candidly addressed the topic of whether Fringe will get a fifth season. Asked by critics at the network’s press-tour event in Pasadena if the Friday night show is coming back, he said: “Fringe has been a point of pride. I share the passion for the show the fans have. I love that Fox, after letting down genre fans over the years [came through with Fringe]. I love that fans stuck with it after it moved to Friday. It has vastly improved our Friday night.”

Now all that sounds great, right? Not so fast. There’s more.

“The hesitation in my voice is that it’s an expensive show. We lose a lot of money on the show. But with that rating on that night it’s almost impossible for us to make swift money on it. We’re not in the business of losing money. We need to figure out if there’s a [deal with studio Warner Bros. that] will make sense or will this be it.”

And here’s another thing. After his Q&A, Reilly told a huddle of reporters that Fringe producers will have to write their current season finale before Fox and Warner Bros. sit down to discuss a renewal. So if this is the last season of Fringe, we might only get a true series-finale ending is if producers basically bet on the show being cancelled (which doesn’t seem likely).

“I’m not quietly doing the ‘soft cancel’ here,” Reilly added. “Please don’t start the letter-writing campaign. I can’t take it. I hope we get some credit with the fans for seeing through a great show.”

After his panel promoting Alcatraz (but before Reilly took the stage), Fringe executive producer J.J. Abrams said he’s hopeful about another season.

“For some sick reason I’m hopeful,” Abrams said. “There’s some stuff coming up this season that’s so great. Maybe it’s dumb optimism that the good work [of the Fringe showrunners] will be rewarded.”

“And if not on Fox,” he added, “maybe somewhere else.”