The Watchman: Oxygen Plays Some ‘Defense,’ ‘Better Call Saul’ Gets, Well, Better

Deputy editor Michael Malone's weekly look at the programming scene
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In defense of, Oxygen’s look at the relationships between some of America’s most loathed criminals and the attorneys who defended them, premieres June 25. It includes Chris Tritico, who represented Timothy McVeigh; Kirk Nurmi, who represented boyfriend killer Jodi Arias; and John Henry Browne, who fought on behalf of serial killer Ted Bundy.

Rod Aissa, Oxygen executive VP of original programming and development, said common questions pop into mind when people think about the lawyers who battled to get these dastardly criminals off. “How did you defend them,” he said, “and what was the moral question you had to ask yourself?”

The show comes from Magical Elves. Aissa said the lawyers pop on screen, as many defense attorneys wield a lot of charisma. “They take you into the belly of the case like no one else,” he said.

The relationship between McVeigh and Tritico plays particularly well, he said, “It became a real relationship,” said Aissa, “not just a business transaction.”

Could In Defense Of see a second season? “It sure could be,” said Aissa.

And while the Television Critics Association press tour does not start for a month, AMC hosted a TCA-esque event in New York last week. The AMC Talent Summit offered panel “The Kick-Ass Women of AMC,” featuring exec producers Melissa Bernstein (Better Call Saul), Angela Kang (The Walking Dead) and Marti Noxon (Dietland). After the high-octane “Kick-Ass Women” trailer rolled, moderator Tamron Hall said, “I need to wake up every morning to that trailer.”

Part II of the panel featured talent — Julianna Margulies of Dietland, Lorraine Toussaint of Into the Badlands, Jenna Elfman from Fear the Walking Dead and Rhea Seehorn from Better Call Saul.

“We’re bad-ass women,” Toussaint said. “It’s good to have the work reflect who we are.”

A second panel was “From Book to Screen.” Noxon was on that one, too, and she spoke about the balance of keeping the author’s voice in an adaptation while allowing her own to flourish. She mentioned getting her eyebrows done, and her beautician said, “ ‘They’re sisters, not twins.’ I feel the same way about an adaptation.”

The final panel was “Masterclass with Better Call Saul.” Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler, talked about meeting star Bob Odenkirk for the first time. “It was, oh my god! It’s the guy from Mr. Show!” she said.

Saul creator Vince Gilligan admitted he didn’t think the Breaking Bad spinoff would be as good as it got to be. That got a reaction from Charlie Collier, president and general manager, AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios.

“That wasn’t in your pitch!” Collier exclaimed.

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