From this perspective, Don Imus’ dismissal was one the best things that could’ve happened to WFAN. Not only did the station finally find a way to rid itself of a morning show with scant sports content, but the introduction of former Jersey Guy Craig Carton — a prior subject of scorn in this space — has actually made for an entertaining early morning program.
Of course, much of the entertainment comes from wondering what sort of incredibly ignorant comment Carton’s gonna make next, or guessing how badly his co-host, former Bengals/Jets QB Boomer Esiason (above) is squirming in what’s turned into a straight-man role.
Make no mistake, “Boomer & Carton” is all Carton. I don’t know if Esiason ever aspired to become radio’s answer to Alan Kalter at such a (relatively) young age, but WFAN found a breakout star in Carton, and probably at a fraction of what they would’ve paid anyone with greater name recognition.
The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick has observed the first few months of the Carton/Esiason partnership, and finds a serious dichotomy between the latter’s respectable role for CBS football and his sidekick status alongside the former.
Craig Carton plays by the rules. He adheres to the drive-time formula of crotch-talk, putdown-talk, young wise guy-talk and the excessive, desensitizing degradation of whatever and whomever. He’s what used to be known, until they became radio requisite, as a shock jock.
That WFAN replaced Don Imus with Carton tells us what radio and TV executives must now value. Carton meets the terms of modern engagement. I’m told he’s not actually a creep; he just often plays one on the radio. It’s a living.
And Esiason mostly indulges him. Sometimes he seems discomforted by him. Sometimes he says nothing. Sometimes he encourages him. But weekday mornings, Esiason’s the primary party to it all. What can he do? Carton’s his business partner; it’s the Boomer and Carton Show.
But such a double-life can’t last forever. Esiason can’t, for example, on TV, condemn the incivilities of a professional athlete, but, on his radio show regularly suffer the public incivilities of his partner – not without eventually being discredited.
He can’t, for example, indulge the sexist and homophobic riffs of Carton while on WFAN, then play the social nobleman during his other TV and radio appearances without inviting big trouble. You’re either in or you’re out.
As Carton’s co-host, Esiason’s on an even faster track to having to answer for his compromised, chameleon-like persona. The day’s approaching when Carton, already with a legacy for having gone too far at previous radio stops – that’s what WFAN liked about him – again goes too far and Esiason will be dragged along with him.