Whether it is the sharp suits and intrigue of Mad Men, or the highly charged theatrics of Glee, even the most popular US television series were once forced to walk uncertain first steps into the world's most unforgiving entertainment arena.
Identifying the programmes that are likely to become hits before broadcast is notoriously difficult, which is why US networks choose to flood their autumn seasons with dozens of new sitcoms, dramas and animated shows. Rather than survival of the fittest, it's survival of the best-rated, with the most popular shows revived the following year and beyond.
In the coming weeks, the Middle Eastern provider Orbit Showtime Network will host the return of several long-standing favourites, including Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Glee, Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, as well as regional premieres of many of the US networks' fledgling shows.
This year's crop is as varied as ever. From the trolley-dolly romp Pan Am to mega-budget sci-fi Terra Nova, as well as a small-screen revival of Charlie's Angels, here are some of the ones to look out for.
Viewers from the UK and a number of other countries will probably already be familiar with The X Factor. Created and owned by Simon Cowell, the show first hit screens in 2004, killing the Idol brand stone dead in Britain. Now launching in the US for the first time, the straight-talking talent judge no doubt hopes that American Idol will falter similarly without him on-board.
The format is largely the same, except groups will be able to compete alongside solo singers. Other judges include Idol's Paula Abdul, music executive LA Reid and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger.
In a relatively new spin on a rather worn-out idea (following a 35-year-old TV show and two big screen adaptations), the three butt-kicking "angels" in ABC's latest series begin life not as cops, but criminals.
But the dangerous trio (played by relative unknowns Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh as well as Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights and dating-New-York-Yankees-player-Derek-Jeter fame) decide to become good guys after all, when they receive a second chance from the mysterious Charlie.
While some TV reboots have fared well in recent years, the majority have not. Unfortunately, this lighthearted take looks destined for a fate closer to that of the short-lived Bionic Woman series rather than that of, for example, Battlestar Galactica.
Loosely based on the classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo, ABC's glitzy drama sees a mysterious woman (Brothers & Sisters star Emily VanCamp) arrive in the exclusive New York neighbourhood the Hamptons seeking revenge on the people who destroyed her family years earlier.
Combining a fairly trashy concept with an opulent setting, it could make irresistible viewing - but how long will it be before all the story's wrongdoers have either got what's coming to them, or the entire revenge storyline has been abandoned?
Executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and airing on Fox, the high-concept sci-fi sees the inhabitants of a polluted and resource-drained 2149 sent back in time to Earth's pre-human past where they hope to begin living off the land. Unfortunately, though, nobody bothered to check the natural history books to discover that Earth's past is full of hungry dinosaurs.
The show's pilot had originally been expected to run in May 2011, but the huge number of special effects needed meant delaying its premiere.
The pilots and air hostesses of this 1960s drama may at first appear to be cut from the same cloth as Don Draper and Joan Holloway, but instead of slow-burning drama, ABC's Pan Am aims for escapism and camp.That won't stop the show from being referred to as Mad Men on a plane, though. It sees the Hollywood actress Christina Ricci buckling-up with a host of unknowns to explore everything from women's liberation to Cold War espionage. Expect it to be one of the most talked-about shows of the year.