The Craig Carton story is going national. On Thursday, HBO announced that the network would be airing a documentary on Craig Carton’s rise and fall from grace after a fake ticket scam.
Entitled Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth, the Carton doc will premiere on Wednesday, October 7th at 9 PM. Carton himself was interviewed for the feature, which was first rumored in January, as were several of his former coworkers.
Here are some quotes about the doc from HBO exec Peter Nelson and co-directors and producers Marie McGovern and Martin Dunn.
“Craig Carton’s radio persona gained him a public following, while his private struggles lost him everything one casino run at a time,” said Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President, HBO Sports. “Many knew Carton, but never knew his secrets, as we learn from Carton himself in this documentary about success, self-destruction, lies and blackjack.”
“Craig gave us unprecedented access to his world as it was crumbling around him,” says Marie McGovern. “We see Craig in real-time as he weathers public scrutiny and endures private pain. The emotion is real and raw.”
“Craig is a fascinating and complex character,” says Martin Dunn. “He knows that people either love or hate his on-air persona. But as his close friends and former colleagues reveal, there are many more facets to his life.”
And here’s HBO’s description of Wild Card.
From Carton’s glamorous Tribeca apartment and multi-million dollar New Jersey mansion to a top bunk in a crowded prison camp barracks; from interviewing sports stars and celebrities to befriending mobsters and criminals; from organizing celebrity softball games at Yankee Stadium to playing for the Lewisburg Yankees, one of the prison camp’s softball teams; from earning millions to waiting for $100 payments to drop into his commissary account, WILD CARD: THE DOWNFALL OF A RADIO LOUDMOUTH details – in Carton’s own words – the sudden demise of one of the most popular and irreverent radio personalities in the country, whose secret gambling life transformed him from a star into a prisoner.
Carton talks openly about his upbringing in New Rochelle, New York, detailing the childhood trauma he never truly dealt with. He discusses his rise to fame in talk radio that turned him into a star in every market he worked in, culminating back home in New York where he was hired to helm the coveted “drive-time” morning show in the wake of the downfall of Don Imus. Paired with former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason, Carton’s love-him-or-loathe him approach supercharged the ratings and spring boarded him into a household name in the Big Apple and across the country.
On the morning of September 6, 2017, FBI agents arrested the “Boomer & Carton” co-host at his New York City apartment and the shocking news became front page headlines across the region. Following an emotional trial, Carton was convicted and on April 5, 2019 was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison on fraud charges. The 51-year-old reported to prison that June.
In addition to Carton, interviews include Boomer Esiason, Chris Christie, Al Dukes, Jerry Recco, Eddie Scozzare, and Mark Chernoff.
McGovern and Dunn previously worked together on a Tom Seaver doc that aired on Fox last fall.
After his arrest in September of 2017, Carton was indefinitely suspended by CBS Radio, and he resigned shortly thereafter. Carton discussed his gambling addiction (which will also be featured in Wild Card) in April of 2019, shortly before his 42 month sentence. He was released this past June, and naturally, the New York sports radio market is thirsty to get him back on the air.
On one hand, I think this could be a somewhat interesting dive into Carton’s career, his crimes, and his addictions. On the other hand, I think it could be an attempt to rehabilitate his image prior to his inevitable return to the radio, and I don’t really have much desire to get sucked into that story.
I’m also curious about what the national appeal for this doc will be. ESPN famously aired a 30 for 30 on Mike Francesa and Chris Russo three years ago, and the national viewership for that installment was quite disappointing (though it did shine in New York). Will there be a similar lack of interest outside of the tri-state area for this feature?