As far as brands, I don’t know about anybody else, but I’ve used good laptops and crappy laptops from HP, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo, and Acer. So for all of those it’s a crapshoot. You might get one that lasts years, you might get one DOA.
I’ve been commuting with a Dell Inspiron for like 2 years now. It’s gotten the crap kicked out of it a lot and it hasn’t had a single problem.
I have had nothing but bad experiences with Sony. I’ve worked on Sony laptops where replacement parts were either ludicrously expensive or impossible to find and Sony’s driver support for the hardware on their laptops is pretty bad.
All the laptops I’ve tried recently have S-Video out. That’s the easiest way to get the video on a TV. Otherwise you need something to convert VGA to whatever TV hookups your comp has. Unless of course your TV has a VGA port, which would definately make things easier.