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Comedy Central Subliminal Ad During Credits


I like "The Daily Show." Occasionally, I'll tune in to watch a new episode as soon as it airs. It's fun to find out about something the same time as everybody else watching.

When it finishes up, my brain gets to thinking:

"Ha ha, what a great show. Oh, it's over. Well, at least now I can enjoy some relaxing theme music as I watch the credits. Na, na na na na na na Na, na na na na… Hey, is something wrong with the screen? It looks like there's a problem… is that a Phantom Image?"

When I was younger, I remember having seen a problem with the TV signal more than a few times. One channel would be showing its programming mostly fine, but you could also see faint images of another channel trying to intrude. They were almost transparent, but the action they revealed was cohesive enough that you could recognize the source of the image by switching channels a bit. Usually the intruder's origin was one or two channels above or below the one you were already watching.

I noticed that a similar thing seems to happen on Comedy Central during the credits. A black background is shown on the left half of the screen, with the credits in white text. Meanwhile, the right half of the screen is divided into two (more or less square) areas, top and bottom. The bottom area shows the name of the program that just ended, or the program coming up next. The top usually shows some content from the ending show, like an extended Moment of Zen.

It is in that upper right-half area that I noticed the Phantom Image. But what channel was it coming from?

Initially I thought it was actually a lingering image from earlier in the show. Part of my reasoning for this conclusion drew on another thing I'd noticed. When I was watching Comedy Central credits, as soon as they ended I'd usually see a quick flash of a still image, which appeared to have been a piece of the pre-credit broadcast. So like if Stephen Colbert was saying hello on "The Daily Show," and then the credits aired, they'd finish and for a split second you might see Colbert frozen in mid-wave (as opposed to a still shot of Colbert introducing a new "Colbert Report"). That image would then be immediately replaced by the next show, or a commercial. So it seemed like data from within the previous show was "spilling over" during the credits. That must explain the Phantom Image… problem solved… Right?

Wrong.

I noticed something else recently. Something far more sinister.

I don't know the name of the show that had just ended. But I do recall that I was paying greater attention to the Phantom Image during the credits. Again, it seemed to overlay the upper right quadrant of the screen, but just barely enough so that you would probably dismiss it if you weren't paying attention. This time I was lucky enough to get a good look at the enigma.

It appears that the Phantom Image is really a near-transparent textual ad, fading in and out, that reads something like "ComedyCentral.com".

My original guess had given the network the benefit of the doubt. "Oh, it's just a data transmission error." But now, it seems apparent that the network is trying to fool its viewers into feeling oddly attracted to the Comedy Central website.

Will they deny this issue, as the Food Network denied having intentionally placed a screenshot of a McDonald's logo directly into the middle of their program?

Will Comedy Central remove the offending transparency and claim that I, the writer of this post, am insane?

Will anybody even care?

Stay tuned next week for an all new episode of "South Park!"

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