There are always commercials which hype new shows, but you have to take those with grains of salt since the network is promoting its own stuff, good or bad. I hate ads that say things like, "the new hit show!" when it hasn't even aired yet. How can it be a "hit" if no one but, perhaps, critics have seen it?!?
Then there's acceptance by the general public into our culture. This also has to be taken with grains of salt since mass culture can also contain a lot of crap. I have never watched an episode of "American Idol" and could only stomach a few minutes of "Dancing with the Stars" simply because it was on the tube at the time. On the other paw, I really got into shows like "The Sopranos" and "Lost."
Finally there is the discovery of popular things in culture through comic strips. *lol* Yeah. That's right. There have been a few references in comic strips where I had no idea what the heck they were talking about. A comic strip isn't funny if you don't get the joke. Obviously I must be missing out on something if the writer is poking fun at something in pop culture that is known by a great number of people. That happened a few weeks ago. I saw a reference to "Downton Abbey" which I misread as "Downtown Abbey." Hmmmm. Never heard of it. Google to the rescue! Ah! It is a very popular t.v. show about the rich and their servants in England in the early 20th century. Hmmmmm. Wasn't that the premise of "Upstairs, Downstairs" in the 70's? Where was the program to be found? HBO? Starz? Showtime? No. PBS. A quick check of Netflix showed that it was available for instant viewing. So I gave it a watch. Damnit. It took about 3 episodes, but it set its hook. I find nothing quite as boring as watching the idle-rich worry about keeping up airs and appearances, but this actually works. I find it amusing that the lords and ladies look down upon such "common" professions as doctors and lawyers. The characters are being developed nicely, and there are a few curve balls thrown in to keep things interesting. Of course there is the garbage about who will marry who, but it hasn't dominated the storyline. I'll keep watching for now.