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That Nostalgia Show
A work set in the recent past for no apparent reason other than nostalgia.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-08-06 16:58:15 sponsor: ThisIsATestTai (last reply: 2013-11-06 10:26:22)

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Some series are set in the present, or Twenty Minutes into the Future, or they're meant to have a sort of timelessness to them (which make it awkward whenever someone brings out a cassette tape or a payphone), or else they're set in the distant past, so far back that no-one who was alive at that time would be alive to shout "Hey! That's not how it was back in my day!"

Then there are these pieces. Maybe they wanted to avoid certain things from today's society, like modern technology or the Internet, that they didn't have when they were a kid. Maybe the author was looking back to the "good ol' days". For one reason or another, they've chosen to set their show a couple decades back.

Now, just slapping a "June 5th, 1976" on an establishing shot isn't enough. The show's time period has to be readily evident. If it's set in the '60s, they should listen to The Beatles and protest the Vietnam War. If it's set in the '70s, some mention of disco and classic rock should come up. If it's set in the '80s, everyone should be blowing out their hair and wearing neon. If it's set in the '90s...you get the idea. It doesn't necessarily need to be The Theme Park Version of its decade, but it should be pretty blatant.

Note that this differs from a Period Piece because of the nostalgia factor; if there's an obvious reason for the series to be set at a certain time, then it becomes a Period Piece. For example, The Great Gatsby is set in the 1920s because it's based on a novel written at that time (in particular one that delved deeply into the pop culture of the time, making it difficult to set in other time periods). Meanwhile, the film Frost/Nixon is based on events from the 1970s, and so there's less of a nostalgic factor in the decision to set it in that time so much as historical accuracy. On the other hand, Harry Potter, despite being set in the '90s, would not qualify, because there's nothing nostalgic about the books or really any indication of the decade it's in beyond the dates. We can't know for sure that the author is setting a work at some point in time because they're feeling nostalgic, but unless the work is based on something else (historical events or a work from that time period), then nostalgia is a logical assumption. In general, if you can picture the author of a work writing the script, and then deciding last minute to set it in such-and-such time period, then it counts as this trope.

Furthermore, as a rule of thumb, the series' main creators should have been alive when the series is being set (More or less; it's possible to be nostalgic for your parents' era as well). It can't be too recent; generally, anything set in the 21st century is a no-go. On the other hand, if it's too old, it becomes less nostalgic and more of a period piece; for example, something set in the 20s today is now considered a period piece. A good rule of thumb is anything set less than 20 or more than fifty years ago does not qualify; as of 2010, the 1960s have slipped into period piece territory, and the 1990s have fallen into this.

Sub-trope of Period Piece. Compare Retraux, which is when the series is meant to look like it's from a time period, which has its own nostalgic value. May relate to Romanticism vs. Enlightenment as another reason to set a piece in an earlier time period. Has nothing to do with the video game Nostalgia, or The Nostalgia Critic, or any of the many similar critics; the trope for that is Caustic Critic.

Examples (in order of the period when they're set):

Film

Literature
  • The Lovely Bones, as well as its film adaptation, begin in 1973 and span a couple years.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower series has actually turned into this, being largely set in the '70s and publishing from 1982 to 2012.

Live-Action TV
  • Probably the Trope Codifier is Happy Days, which ran from 1974-1984 and took place in the '50s and '60s. While a show set in the same time period would be considered a Period Piece nowadays, at the time when it was made it was very nostalgic.
  • Hi-de-Hi! is a British sitcom from the '80s set in the '50s holiday camp, Maplins.
  • Mad Men plays this trope to a T (although it barely meets the "5 decades ago" requirement).
  • Pan Am was this to the 60s before its cancellation.
  • Oliver Beene was set in the 1960s, and used its time period to great effect, referencing Zeerust predictions for the present day of when it was broadcast that, of course, time would prove completely wrong.
  • The Wonder Years ran from 1988 to 1993, and took place from 1968 to 1973.
  • The trope gets its name from That '70s Show, which is set 22 years before it was originally made.
    • By extension, it also gets its name from the lesser-known spin-off, That '80s Show.
  • Freaks and Geeks qualifies, being made in '03 and set in 1980 (but really having more '70s nostalgia than the '80s).
  • The upcoming TV show, The Goldbergs, will be set in the '80s and is largely biographical.

Music
  • Billy Joel's 1983 album An Innocent Man is made up almost entirely of 1950s style songs. The video for "Uptown Girl" keeps the theme as well.
  • Deee-Lite's music video for "Groove is in the Heart" is a classic '90s song, and features the singer and background dancers dressed up like characters from the '70s.

Western Animation
  • Walt Disney was enamored with the 1890s (he was born two years after they ended, in 1901) and set many of his cartoons in that period, such as Mickey Mouse's The Nifty Nineties and Donald Duck's Crazy Over Daisy. Even Donald's iconic outfit is a Gay Nineties throwback!
    • Although Lady and the Tramp doesn't quite meet the deadline (it was released in 1955, 65 years after the decade it was meant to invoke), it fits this trope in all other ways.
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