I used a vga to dvi adaptor from the back of my dell laptop and ran a dvi cable from there to the back of my hdtv. It didn't work radio shack employee suggested that I use a vga to vga cable and place the vga to dvi adaptor to the hdtv side. What do you think?
I think that won't accomplish anything, a VGA cable only extends the VGA port, it wouldn't do anything.
Are you using an adapter or a converter? An adapter would simply be re-routing the analog VGA pins to their corresponding wires in the DVI cable. DVI has pins reserved for analog VGA data, which is why a DVI-to-VGA adapters work so well, unfortunately, you are trying to go the other way. An adapter doesn't turn your analog VGA signal into a digital DVI signal, it just moves the pins around. I'm guessing your TV is NOT looking for an Analog Signal coming in on its DVI port, but that is all its getting from your adapter.
A converter, on the other hand, will take your analog VGA signal and convert it to a digital DVI signal. These are considerably more expensive ($100+ typically).