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$20,000 in HD gear? What's the catch?

Panasonic's giveaway is supposedly for research.

It's time to say it: Enough. If Gene Simmons Family Jewels can find air time, then it's possible for anyone to find an audience on cable. So why not give it a shot yourself?

Electronic House

As part of a research initiative (and marketing ploy) called "Living in HD," Panasonic is recruiting 30 families to "explore how the latest HD technology affects the American lifestyle," according to Electronic House. It's not destined for TV yet, but the judges who will choose the families include Hollywood directors Kevin Smith and Brett Ratner, so who knows? And even if you don't become the next Kelly Osbourne, you and your loved ones can still walk away with $20,000 in HD-licious gear in the end, including "a 50-inch full HD 1080p plasma TV, an HD camcorder, digital cameras, a Blu-ray DVD player and more," Panasonic says. The application deadline is August 31, by the way, and selection will take place next spring.

The program reportedly is being run jointly with Columbia University's Center for Urban Research, whose stated goal is to become "a national resource for education, research and discussion on issues confronting America's cities." One would think there are more pressing issues to tackle with such a mandate, but we're not ones to judge. Especially if they throw in a Toughbook as promised.