TV Q&A: 'Billions,' daytime soaps and local TV news anchors/reporters

Thursday, 30 July 2020 12:00 AM Written by 

Q: What happened to “Billions” on Showtime? It only aired three episodes.


Rob: My understanding is production on season five of “Billions” was disrupted by the production shutdown due to the pandemic. They had filmed the first seven episodes of the season, which aired in May/June. There are five episodes of the 12-episode order remaining to film when production is able to resume.



Q: ABC has only aired five new episodes each of “Celebrity Family Feud,” “Press Your Luck” and “Match Game” so far this season, with no plans to air any more new episodes until at least Aug. 23. Are they saving them thinking they’re gonna need the programming through September and October?

Rob: Yes, ABC is clearly stockpiling. I’ve been told that with regards to several of the game shows they expect to air new episodes at least through September. To do that, they have to space out new episodes interspersed with reruns over the summer.



Q: I see where Will Sasso is now on the new comedy “United We Fall.” That program is on ABC.  Does that mean he has been written out of CBS’s “Mom” where he played Jill's boyfriend which is on CBS or can he do "double duty."


Rob: My guess is “United We Fall” won’t be back after it’s burned off this summer so Sasso is likely to be available. My understanding is “Mom” writers anticipate his character, Andy, will return but it’s unclear for how many episodes since production remains shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Q: With daytime soap operas now resuming production after having had to shutdown from the pandemic for months, I was just curious how many shows they usually tape during a given week?  


Rob: In the before times, daytime soaps taped a lot of content really quickly. Their productivity may be hampered somewhat by COVID-19 protocols but at one point in the Before Times “The Bold & the Beautiful” taped eight episodes in a four-day work week although they don’t shoot in order or by episode but by scene, doing as many scenes as possible on one set with those scenes inserted in multiple episodes. 

My understanding is half-hour “B&B” continues to tape at about the same rate even with COVID-19 safety protocols in effect. Hour-long “Y&R” typically shoots four episodes over five days, so about the same amount of content in the same period of time.



Q: What are the chances of either “All My Children” or “One Life to Live” coming back?


Rob: It seems very unlikely. Daytime scripted series are more expensive to produce than talk shows or news programs so there’s no real financial incentive for networks to revive shows whose ratings had tumbled precipitously when they were canceled.



Q: Any word what Rick Dayton and Susan Koeppen will be doing since KDKA let them go? Will they continue to look for work on another Pittsburgh based news station, will they retire, etc.?


Rob: As one would expect, they both seem to still be figuring out their next steps.

I have worked in the broadcast news business for a very long time,” Dayton writes in an e-mail response to Joe’s query. “It is what I know. I am passionate about it, and telling people’s stories is a privilege I will never take for granted. That is why I am continuing to look for TV news opportunities across the country. With that being said, I am from Western Pennsylvania. Our family has been back in Pittsburgh for nearly 11 years. It is our home. It is where our kids grew up, played high school sports, and we have a wonderful church. My wife and I have been involved with a lot of charitable endeavors. That is why I am continuing to reach out to many Pittsburgh businesses and am excited to hear how my other talents and experience may lead to opportunities that may be presented to me. As for retirement, I would love to be able to do that, but I am not sure the golf courses in the region are ready for that just yet.”

Koeppen writes, “Thanks for asking. Here’s what I can tell you. I will be staying in Pittsburgh and I am looking at all my options. Until I decide my next move, people can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at @susankoeppentv. And on Twitter at @susankoeppen. Friends and family have told me for years to write a book about my near-death experience, so I have started on that project. Chapter 1 is underway!”



Q: WPXI’s Shelley Bortz has conducted some interviews with people via Zoom or Skype in a location that looks like a fire station.  You get to see the subject interviewed on her computer like she does.  This interview is aired from a large garage with very huge doors (the same shot is always used). I guess the question is why is the setting for some of Shelly's stories a huge garage?  

Maybe this is a well-known WPXI garage but all you see is Shelley and some huge garage doors.  It looks kind of weird, like Shelly has an office in a local fire station and uses it to file reports..  

Shelley is from Uniontown so we follow her.  We never see any other reporters like Amy Hudak or Mike Holden in this garage, only Shelley. 


Rob: The pandemic has changed a lot of the ways TV stations operate in an effort to protect each station’s employees.

You are correct, it IS the WPXI garage,” Bortz explained. “Due to the coronavirus all field reporters and photographers have been moved to the garage for our daily operations. This is to keep down the number of people in the building. The only employees allowed in the newsroom are anchors and producers. So, if we have to do a Zoom interview as opposed to an in-person interview we conduct those in the garage on our laptops.”




This is a long over-due complaint about the sound conditions on Channel 11. The sound bites that they play preceding various introductions throughout the news broadcasts have gotten so annoyingly loud that it is now ridiculous. The noise is so loud is drowns out the sound of whatever the news anchor is saying.  


Many of the other stations seem to have this annoying pattern as well. Surely the sound people have to be aware. Please forward my complaint to all who might be able to remedy this noise.  



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