Torah U-Mada is one of those terms that means different things to different people. Dr. Lamm, in his classic book of that name, offers a number of different models for Torah U-Mada. One model that does not get much respect is that of Torah and popular culture.
What can be valuable in popular culture? After all, it is just shmutz, noise and distortions of all that is sacred (Britney Spears being exhibit #1). I cannot disagree with that, but there is still much to be gained from popular culture for those daring (or foolish) enough to try.
Let's take a step back. There is much debate over what R. Samson Raphael Hirsch's true position was on the secular world, and I have no interest in arguing about it. But let me state that his philosophy of Torah Im Derekh Eretz was one that saw beauty and wisdom in the culture of his time. Classical music, theater, poetry, literature, etc. could all refine a person and teach him about the world and about human nature. Few would object to the statement that one can better understand the human condition by analyzing Shakespeare's works.
The same applies to Jerry Seinfeld's works. In his own way, Seinfeld was also a commentator on the human condition. There is much understanding to be gained from insightful comedy. Can that same understanding be gained elsewhere, such as in Shakespeare's works? Perhaps. It can also be gained from learning Torah. But not everyone sees the same insights in the same place. Some people (like me) gain very little from Shakespeare because of a pitiable lack of background and interest. Sure, if Rabbi Carmy or R. Aharon Lichtenstein spell out a valuable tidbit from Milton then I will grasp it. But, sadly, I lack the interest in searching for such insights myself.
Of course, there is good pop culture and bad pop culture. Maybe someone can find deep messages in Stephen King but I can't. Isaac Asimov's writings, on the other hand, contain many fascinating areas of interest, often explicitly dealing with human psychology. Harry Potter, I believe, is very telling. (Stay tuned for a post comparing spells to blessings.)
And who, pray tell, can inform us more about human nature than that dysfunctional cartoon family The Simpsons?
It is my belief that Torah Im Derekh Eretz (which Dr. Lamm classifies as a form of Torah U-Mada) includes contemporary popular culture. The only reason to exclude it is old-fogeyism and cultural bias. Is there bad pop culture? Yes. Is there bad 19th century literature? Yes. Are there aspects of pop culture that are assur? Same thing goes for 19th century culture. The bold TIDE-nik will find the gems and utilize them for positive purposes.
Let me note that one young talmid hakham who is quite adept at finding meaningful lessons from pop culture is R. Daniel Z. Feldman. However, his online lecture titled "Simpsons in Halakha" is merely a discussion of halakhah and is not relevant to my point. I anxiously await a lecture of his about meaningful lessons on human nature in The Simpsons.
Additionally, someone pointed out to me the following passage in an article by the complex and controversial R. Mayer Schiller. He points out the inherent value in comedy in his article titled "Torah Umadda and The Jewish Observer Critique: Towards a Clarification of the Issues" in The Torah U-Mada Journal, vol. 6, pp. 81, 89n26.
Recently I sat with a prominent mitnagdic Rosh Yeshiva who waxed rhapsodic over Ebbets Field, Happy Felton's Knothole Gang, "Campy" and "Pee Wee" and, yet, felt obligated to declare those wondrous memories of his youth "shtusim".Not quite what I was getting at but still worthy of mention.
 Another mitnagdic Rosh Kollel told me that a trip to Niagara Falls would be "bittul Torah". However, when reminded of the Abbot and Costello routine of "Niagara Falls", he laughed so hard that he could barely catch his breath. I asked him what he thought God felt about the joy he experienced at that moment and he was at a loss to answer.