It is most definitely an art form, and a living breathing one.
It's not a dead "art form" by any means. It would probably be easier to count modern shows without theme music these days.
What has changed is the level of competition; with 250 other shows airing in the same time slot and ubiquitous IR remotes, a show had better not exceed your attention span, or it will suffer an early fate. The BB Theory is kind of a throwback, and they take the risk of us surfing the dial for a better option for the 20 seconds or so that we know we will not miss anything. No one else has the balls to risk that.
Well, maybe Dexter, but we've already paid for that. If you don't wait for the "ding" (and what's up with that?) when he locks his door and walks out of his apartment, then you are not psychologically primed to really enjoy the show. I can't explain it, I just know I have to hear that "ding".
I think it is familiarity. Familiarity means comfort; we are soothed by getting what we expect, by routine. I think CBS and others take advantage of this with closing themes (usually a 4-bar electric guitar sting over the production company logo). When we hear that it is comforting, and we know we are just seconds away from next week's preview, which is a promo or two away from the next show.
But even that is disappearing. On Alias you could hear J.J. Abrams' two little kids yelling "Bad Robot!", and by the time Fringe was out, he had a third child and re-recorded it with all three. But I have noticed the "Bad Robot" logo sans sound lately, probably on Person of Interest.
Edited by TomCat, 05 April 2013 - 05:30 PM.