In the world of sports, if a team is on the bubble, it usually means that there is no guarantee that the team will get a postseason berth. The term can be applied to television as well, as networks decide which shows will be returning in the fall (and which ones won’t).

Variety tackled this subject…

Most of broadcast’s comedies and dramas are in the midst of plotting their year-end finales. But for producers who still don’t have a clue about the fate of their shows, that creates a conundrum.

Do you tie up loose ends, and shoot a de facto series finale, just in case it’s all over? Or do you leave the viewers wanting more via a big, messy cliffhanger in hopes that execs will find it more difficult to cut things off midstream?

This year, the producers behind ABC’s “Life on Mars” came up with a third option: Persuade the network to announce the show’s fate right now in order to at least go out with a bang.

“The producers were really pushing for it,” said ABC Entertainment exec VP Jeff Bader. “Based on the ratings the way they are now, it didn’t look like it would be back.

So the producers of “Life on Mars” saw the writing on the wall and pushed for a quick decision. Now they can wrap up the show appropriately.

The whole article is worth a read. It discusses how each network is handling certain shows and how some networks are splitting up shows to air in into either the fall or the spring, but not both. The article mentions “Heroes,” which may only get picked up for 18 to 20 episodes. Few shows can truly stay fresh and entertaining for a traditional, 26-episode season. The shorter the season, the less fat/filler there can be. (Usually.)