Don't see why not. You will need to connect the external monitor and setting it up as an extended display (acting as two displays, side by side). What you should be able to do is move the movie playing application (windows media player or some such) to the secondary (HDTV) display while still working on your paper on the primary (laptop) display.
After reading your reply I somehow figured it out! I went to extended displays as before and saw that my computer was main disply and the Tv had only my background on it. All I had to do was drag the screen I wanted to display on the Tv throuhg the right of my computer screen and it drags onto the TV! Multitasking here I come!