It just so happens that in the past few weeks I've been doing some research on TVs . . . mostly because I have some extra time on my hands at work . . . well that and like most guys I love electronics (in fact I have a column on this coming out soon) . . . and the fact that I'm lusting (that's right, lusting . . . not desiring, not thinking about . . . actual lusting) for a larger screen since bigger is always better, right?
In any case, Dave, here's a few of my thoughts in no particular order.
HDTV . . . once you see it you'll notice a definite difference -- especially on sporting events. However, as you mentioned, you have to have a way of getting the HD signal. For my "old" (three or four years now) ginormous Samsung CRT (this thing weighs a ton incidentally but only has a 30 inch widescreen) which has a built-in HD tuner (this is important since some TVs are still sold that are only HD-ready and don't have the HD tuner built in) I use standard coax connected to a roof antenna to get my signal. The difference between the analog and digital signal (not to be confused with HD signal) is amazing . . . and when a program is aired in HD the image is even more impressive (although I've noticed that sporting events really seem to do well with nationally-broadcast HD shows being a bit better than the standard digital broadcast). WABI comes in great and I rarely use the analog signal that they broadcast. Since I'm in a fringe broadcast area WLBZ, WCSH and the CBS affiliate in Portland show a half decent analog broadcast, but the digital signal is hit or miss depending on the weather (I have also been told that several stations (as of a few months ago) were not transmitting the digital signal on full power. It may be possible that if your Dad doesn't want to buy a roof antenna, but would like to take advantage of the digital and HD signal that he could get by with rabbit ears or similar set top antenna system (the antenna, not the actual ears of a bunny rabbit) . . . but I don't know if you can receive the signal where he is . . . as a rule of thumb, in most cases if you can receive an over-the-air signal currently you should be able to receive a digital signal as well. I also should mention that the rest of my viewing is done through a non-HD Direct TV satellite TV service which provides digital broadcasting which also is very sharp.
DVDs . . . You said Dad doesn't watch any DVDs . . . but as mentioned DVDs aren't HD unless you go with the Blu-Ray or HD-DVD players which cost some change.
DLP . . . from what I've read this system seems to offer the most bang-for-the-buck. You'll get a TV set that offers a great image. What you won't get is the ability to hang it on the wall (la-ti-dah, right . . . I imagine your Dad probably could care less), it's a lot less weighty than the convention CRT (although CRTS probably offer the absolute best bang for the buck) and you can get relatively large screen views for a much cheaper price than plasma or LCD. I will confess that I have not looked much at DLPs for two reasons . . . 1) I am hoping that when Heidi and I remodel our living room we can get a fireplace and install a flatscreen above the fireplace (providing that there is enough clearance and the heat issues are not problematic) and 2) I will confess that I am sometimes leery of brand new technology and I'm waiting to see if there are any problems with the colorwheel and mirrors on the DLPs before I make the move.
LCD . . . this seems to be the most popular choice . . . perhaps due to the fact that we are very familiar with this technology since many of us have LCD monitors and the smaller LCD TVs are fairly affordable. These TVs are excellent for viewing in light-saturated areas as they are very bright. As Sudonim mentioned, there have been some issues with blurring with fast-moving action and a "screen door effect" . . . some "experts" say these problems have been resolved with the latest generation. Many agencies that rate TVs have given the Sharp Aquos line of LCD TVs high marks with a plasma-TV like image. Newer LCD TVs are growing larger . . . but of course the price tag has gone up along with the screen size.
Plasma . . . many video-philes consider plasma to be the ultimate TV. The smallest plasma is 37 inch with 42 and 50 inch being more common. Experts say the colors are more vivid with plasma, but that they are best seen in low-light conditions. Issues of burn-in (station logos on the screen, a static video game image such as a life meter, etc.) and longevity (plasma TVs originally did not have long life expectancies, but are now good to go for many, many years) do not appear to be as much of an issue now with the latest generation of plasma TVs. These TVs do tend to run a little warmer according to some users and may use more electricity. A good choice according to many experts is the Pioneer or Panasonic line of plasma TVs.
Well, I don't know if this has helped or just confused you more Dave. Final thought . . . take a look at the TV yourself and see what looks best to you . . . and remember everyone has an opinion on what is best.
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the realization that there is something more important than fear."
"Death is only one of many ways to die."