Behold: The McPanel

Are flat-panel TVs going the way of Duff Beer? Simpson fans will recall the episode where Homer and Barney visit the Duff brewery and witness all the different varieties of beer - Duff Lite, Duff Ice, Duff Mountain Berry Blast - all being bottled from the same vat. Now the same thing's happening to flat-panel TVs. Where once brand A looked different than brand B which looked different than brand C, by this time next year everyone should look pretty much the same because Pioneer, Sony, Sharp and LG are the new Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice.

Duff_closeup_2 From a business standpoint this makes a lot of sense. Plasma TVs look better than LCD but they cost more to produce, and since LCD is trending upward while plasma is waning, Pioneer's smart to exit the plasma biz, amazing though their TVs are. Sony's already ditched plasma to rebadge Sharp's LCD panels under their own name. It's nothing new, really - most of the 2nd-tier Costco/Walmart brands have had LG panels behind the bezel for years now, so Pioneer and Sony moving to Sharp LCD panels is just the sound of the other shoe hitting the clean room floor, hopefully without B-grading any of the yield and making Westinghouse's day.

From a consumer's standpoint, I guess we'll see if reduced competition does what it always seems to - crappier product at a higher cost, and go knock yourself out reaming these companies on the AV forums, nerdlingers, because 99% of flat TVs are bought by people who will never know you exist. Sorry to break it to you, but we're all grown-ups here. Pained self-awareness is the new black. -Corey Greenberg

Veteran tech journalist Corey Greenberg is the creator of Shaveblog.