Have you seen Fall lineup of television shows? The family comedy genre takes up several channel listings in this season's TV guide:

What is it about shows that mirror our everyday lives that make us laugh?

This kind of situation comedy is not new. Back in its heyday, All in the Family was a hit and went down in the books as a cultural favorite. Despite the hilarity it brought to households each week, the show also tackled serious subjects including racism, impotence, and women's rights.

The Cosby Show is considered to be one of the most popular television shows. Raising five children has to be stressful at times, but Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable brought out the laughter, and sometimes the tears, in everyday events that we parents go through with our own children. The great writing and brilliant cast struck a chord with audiences; an incident that a mom or dad would find frustrating (a teenager breaking curfew, a child lying to her parents) could easily be met with laughter later on in prime time.

Sure, the characters have perfect hair, speak witty dialogue, and own enormous homes, but Emmy-award winning Modern Family is a fun rendition of real family life with all the characters' imperfections, irritations with one another, and vain attempts to be perfect parents to their children and perfect mates to their spouses.

The Middle may more closely relate to "real" life: the messy home, the harried Mom, and the quirky children. It is certainly a far cry from Leave It to Beaver, a show that, while popular, depicted American family life as an unrealistic kind of utopia. Not that anyone's life on television is something to covet, but at least many of us can identify with — and keep up with — the many misadventures of the Heck family.

Sometimes, it is just what we need: a tool to find exhilarating laughter in the midst of stressful situations. There is plenty of stress in everyday life, and I'm willing to bet that Americans are diffusing it for shows that depict situations we live every day — but with the comedic advantage we get from a third-person point of view. It is, in fact, just what the doctor ordered.

If there were cameras in our own homes, I am certain others would get a big laugh out of methods we all have used to try to deal with the day-to-day stresses of managing children, clothing stains, and the failed chicken casserole. But since most of us do not want that, the occasional once-or-twice a week bouts of laughter we get at another family's expense — albeit fictional — will have to do.

What about you? What helps you manage stress? And what really makes you laugh?