You are both fortunate and cursed to have found these forums, for while these forums are a font of knowledge, there are tons and tons of opinions that can easily confuse an expert, let alone a layman.
Also keep in mind that these message boards are laden with A/V enthusiasts who are extremely anal perfectionists. They look for the perfect display, purchasing, bringing home then exchanging multiple flat panels in order to find the one flawless display that will transform their viewing experience.
Don't let that sway you from finding the TV that is right for you and your viewing preferences.
I myself did around 2 years of research (here and other places) before deciding upon a brand and model then purchasing one. I brought my tv home 1 year ago and am very happy with my purchase.
Was my tv flawless? No. It had a stuck pixel right out of the box. The buttons on the bezel are nigh invisible and thus, essentially useless. The USB port on the side is used for updates only and thus, essentially useless.
1 year later and I've adjusted the settings on my tv to where the picture is awsome. Blu Ray movies are breathtaking. DVD's look incredible. SD Cable is an eyesore, but there's not much to be done about that. (HD cable is a little better than adequate, on average. Some channels being nigh flawless, others crappy, but that's not my TV's fault). The stuck pixel is gone, but today I just discovered another stuck pixel in a different location on my tv. Its unnoticeable beyond 12", so I don't really care.
No color banding (after I adjusted my settings), no clouding, no flashlighting, blacks are pretty good (not Plasma good, but good) contrast is more than adequate (way more) and my family loves the darned thing.
So keep doing your research until you find the one that you want. Understand that all the problems that people on these message boards are having are not universal amongst all tv's of a specific model or brand. Its hit or miss. You might bring home a Sony LCD with flashlighting or clouds...then again (most likely) you might not.
I do recommend you talk to the experts on these message boards...they harbor a ton of knowledge between them and their advice can be invaluable, but take their advice with a grain of salt and realize that it will be tinged with personal opinion. And just remember, it doesn't matter if anyone else likes your tv, only that you like it.
Stand tall and shake the heavens...