Here's the one I'm pinin' for:
That price direct from Sony is overinflated. I think I have seen it for about $2,500. It's a lot of moolah I know. The thing about that one specifically, and all the new ones coming out in general, is that they do 120hz scan, rather than the standard 60hz scan. It is supposed to smooth out the blurriness that you sometimes see in action scenes or sports on LCD TVs. It also is divisible by 24fps which is the standard that is used for movies. So "supposedly" movies using the cinema standard (an option on blue ray players now I believe) are supposed to look more like they do on the big screen than they do on the old 60hz TVs.
But if you want to go cheaper, I've always liked any of the Bravia line or XBR line from Sony. I've had my Sony tube TV for at least 5 years if not longer, and haven't had any problems with it. Same with other Sony TVs I've owned.
But of course the final say has to come from actually looking at one, and living in the boonies might make it difficult. Next time you hit the city try to stop in on some place that sells only big screens (the Big Screen King or what have you) and have them show you their models with a Bluray player running AND with standard definition source. Not only will you see the difference, between sets, and between standard and high def (have them show you a 120hz vs 60hz TV too and see if there is much difference), but you'll also see how shitty ANY standard definition stuff is going to look on any TV, and learn to live with it (the future is high def!).
Don't let any fool try and sell you an HD-DVD player for really really cheap. The format is dead, completely and totally, which is why they are selling them for cheap. Toshiba is not supporting the format any longer. They caved to Bluray. The format wars are over, done, kaput...kapish?