20 Minutes into the Past

"The past is another country. 1987's just the Isle of Wight."
Ninth Doctor, Doctor Who, "Father's Day"

A work that is shot so that it looks like it happened sometime in the years before it was actually filmed, often right around the time that the target audience were kids. It's not a historical piece related to some specific event, person, or story written in that time and thus specifically tied down, but it may have a specific date attached just to increase realism or allow for Establishing Shots so you can imagine the mindset of the characters (for instance, the Cold War mindset is used now in works set in that time period even if the story has nothing to do with it; a similar phenomenon has occurred concerning 9/11). It may be tinged with nostalgia, or maybe the props were just easy to pick up at a secondhand store. In recent times, this can be to avoid the plot-destroying parts of modern life, such as mobile phones and social media like YouTube and Facebook.

Vaguely related to 20 Minutes into the Future, but without the Applied Phlebotinum. Compare and contrast Next Sunday A.D.. If anachronisms end up in unchecked, will end up causing Present Day Past.

Depending on how much time passes in-universe during the series' run, a show that starts off in the Present Day may become this.


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    Anime and Manga 



    Light Novels 
  • Fate/Zero was originally written in 2007, while the main plot takes place in the mid 1990s.

  • 20 Minutes into the Past Released in 1989, the modern day settings outside of the framing story are set in 1987.
  • No Country for Old Men set in the 1980s.
  • The Usual Rules, published in 2003, takes place in the months after the 9/11 attacks. The main character's mother worked in the Twin Towers and died in the attacks. Really, when it was written, it was more like 5 minutes into the past.
  • Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, from the Dear America series, was published in 2002 and takes place in 1968. Also unusual for the series, in that the most recent year before that is 1941 and the vast majority of the books take place in the 19th century.
  • Harry Potter is set between 1991-1998 or so while the books were released 1997-2007 and the films 2001-2011. The books are nonspecific enough (owing to the general lack of modern technology) to occur anywhere in that period, but the films are clearly set in the aughts.
  • Rowling continues the trend with her later books. The Casual Vacancy was written in 2012 but never gives a precise date, though certain pop culture references put it late in the aughts. 2013's The Cuckoo's Calling's use of Chekhov's News specifically places it during certain landmark events of the 2010 UK general election.
  • Despite being set in the eponymous date and immediately after, later works in the 1632 series have started to use this since the American town of Grantville was transported to that time from the year 2000- so writers must be careful to give their computers only the capabilities and programs they would have had then, for instance.
  • Ulysses, the famous novel by James Joyce was published between 1918 and 1920, yet is set on the perfectly ordinary day of June 16, 1904.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower was published in 1999 and takes place in the 1991-92 school year.
  • Jules Verne loves this trope, despite everybody assuming his books are meant to be futuristic:
  • Don DeLillo's Falling Man was published in 2007 and is set in New York immediately after the September 11 attacks of 2001.
  • The first two books of The Platinum Key series were published in 2015 but set around 2007.
  • The majority of Rosemary Wells works would sometimes take place at a certain decade such as the 1950s, 1970s, or between the 1980s and 1990s.
    • While the Max and Ruby series is still ongoing since 1979, the setting would sometimes be a mix between the 1940s and late 70s since the characters still use old fashioned radio to lesson to music and a radio show. But the characters are never seen owning any televsions. Which is odd since in one of the later books and a couple episodes of the animated series would sometimes show a character owning a handheld video game called the Game Bunny.
    • In the Yoko & Friends, Yoko series and the animated version of Timothy Goes to School appears to be set during the late 90s but the characters are dressed in clothes that are mostly common during the 70s and 60s while they still own 50s and 60s style cars.
  • The Girls was published in 2016 but seems to be set sometime in the early years of the 21st century. Evie is described as middle-aged rather than old (she was 14 in her 1969 flashbacks, so 61 in 2016, 45 at the turn of the century), and an off-hand reference to a San Francisco woman getting killed by pit bulls is an apparent allusion to the 2001 death of Diane Whipple.

    Live Action TV 
  • That '70s Show is a sitcom that aired from 1998 to 2006 and is set in the 1970s.
  • That '80s Show aired in 2002 and is set in the 1980s.
  • How I Met Your Mother is an interesting example, as the main story takes place in the present, but is told from the future's perspective as if it were taking place 20-something years in the past.
  • The 2006 Life On Mars and its 2008 American counterpart, which both take place in 1973.
  • M*A*S*H takes place during the Korean War, but it would have been twenty minutes in the past when it aired in the '70s and '80s. Now, it's more like forty minutes.
  • Happy Days. Set in the 1950's-1960's, ran from 1974-1984.
  • The beginning of The X-Files is set in early 1992 though the show started in 1993.
  • Lost started out as Present Day, but was definitely 20 Minutes into the Past by at least the 2nd Season. Then it got more complicated.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has this for part of the pilot, since it starts in 1999 before time jumping them to 2007 (the year the show premiered). It allows for some real world events to surprise them, like 9/11.
  • Sam and Al on Quantum Leap were natives of 20 Minutes into the Future, but Sam always leaped into the recent past.
  • Freaks and Geeks made in 1999-2000 was set in 1980.
  • The Goldbergs made its debut in 2013, and is set in the 1980s.
  • Treme Ran from 2010-2013, Set in Recently post-Hurricane Katrina 2005 era New Orleans.
  • Better Call Saul is set in 2002 and started airing in 2015.
  • The five years in which Breaking Bad was airing all take place in the same year in-universe (2008/09 in-show for 2008-2013 in reality), making the later seasons this trope.
  • In season 2 of Mr. Robot this is almost an Exaggerated Trope, as it was released in 2016 and explicitly takes place around early summer 2015 (computers, newspapers, and the like often show the date).
  • As a series where time travel is a central element, it's not surprising that Doctor Who has done many stories set in the recent past (relative to the release date of the episode). The page quote is from Father's Day, first aired in 2005 and set in 1987.

    Video Games 
  • The Nameless Mod: Released in 2009, set in September of 2004.
  • Shenmue was set in 1986-1987 and released in 1999, but you wouldn't notice it at first glance - especially since the main character has a Sega Saturn, which was released in '96.
    • However, anachronistic issues like the above are only true for the first game. The second game is mostly set in the Kowloon Walled City, which had been torn down for five years by 1999.
  • House of the Dead:
    • House of the Dead 4 dialed back on the ridiculous Time Skip III pulled and is set in 2003... two years before its release date of 2005.
  • The House of the Dead: OVERKILL, released in 2009, goes even further back as an explicit prequel to the rest of the series, being set in 1991.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 2 was released in 2014 with the trailers, and in-game itself, telling you of a Grand Reopening of the restaurant! Turns out it takes place during 1987, so it's actually a prequel to the previous game, which is itself (most likely) set in 1993.
  • In the Grand Theft Auto series, most of the games in the "Grand Theft Auto III era" other than that game itself were explicitly set in the past:
  • Likewise, in the "HD era" games, Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned and Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony were released in 2009 but set in late 2008, and the multiplayer content for Grand Theft Auto V was released from 2014 onward, but takes place in early 2013. GTAV also has an opening mission set in 2004, a full decade prior to its release and the setting of the rest of the game.
  • The Walking Dead begins at the onset of the zombie apocalypse, which would coincide with the beginning of the comic book. This would mean that the game, first released in 2012, is initially set in 2003.
  • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War was released in 2006. The main game itself is set in 1995, with the framing device of a documentary recorded in 2005.
  • According to an official site parodying Friendster, Psychonauts, which was released in 2006, is set during 2003.
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, as part of its 80s action movie style. It was released in 2013, but in-game, "the year is 2007. It is the future."
  • Life is Strange is set in October 2013, but was episodically released throughout 2015. Likewise, the 2017 prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm takes place in 2010.
  • Persona 5 takes place in 20XX, but comparing the calendar to Real Life and background elements to the series' plotline indicates that it's 2016. The game was released in Japan in September 2016, but this trope applies for the overseas release, which was in April 2017.
  • Event[0] was released in 2016 and set in an alternate 2012, where space travel advanced far faster than it did in the real world, to the point where the setting is a late 80's-model space ship complete with vinyl records, CRT monitors, and ugly carpets and wallpapers.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry was first released in the early 2000s, but takes place in 1983. It's unlikely the series would work if the characters had modern day conveniences such as internet access or easily accessible cellphones. In fact, at the start of the second season of the Animated Adaptation, we see a now adult Rena in 2006 who is now quite melancholy as she was the Sole Survivor of her entire town after an incident in 1983.
  • Mahou Tsukai No Yoru was released in April 2012 and takes place in the late 1980s.

  • Yume-Hime is set in 2010, but started in 2014. According to the annotations, the story begins on the day it was first conceived.

    Western Animation 
  • Dave the Barbarian: While the show is set in a Theme Park Version of the Middle Ages, Ned Frischman, a character that comes across a time traveling device thanks to a heap of Deus ex Machina, is from the year 1994.
  • Once every few seasons, The Simpsons does an episode of this.
    • They had one from the turn to the '70s, which featured Homer as a teenager, trying to date Marge. It featured bell-bottom pants and a Volkswagen Mini Bus.
    • They had one from the turn to the '80s, which featured Homer and Marge as a young couple with baby Bart. To set the date, Marge had a throw-away line about the latest episode of M.A.S.H.
    • They had one from the '90s that was a 30-minute Affectionate Parody of that decade. It had Homer and Marge in college, with Homer in a generic Garage Band and Marge with a '90s Jennifer Aniston haircut.
    • Of course, being a Long Runner operating on Comic-Book Time, The Simpsons features Negative Continuity when it comes to deciding just which era is currently Twenty Minutes In The Past. If one considers a suitable timespan for this trope to be the last two or three decades, say, then a lot of that period by now falls within the period the show has actually been running in Real Life.
    • Examples include "The Way We Was", "That Nineties Show", "The Way We Weren't", "Lisa's First Word", etc.
    • The third act of "The Wettest Stories Ever Told" is a retelling of The Poseidon Adventure set in the not-so-distant past.
    Homer: It was a dark time for mankind, a time when madness and ignorance ruled... the 1970s.
  • Family Guy. In "Meet the Quagmires", Peter and Brian travel back in time so Peter can relive life as an 18-year old.
    • American Dad!'s first Christmas Episode was similar, where Stan travels back in time to the 70's to stop Jane Fonda from (somehow) ruining Christmas. It ends with Stan traveling back in time again, this time to the '80s, where he has to undo all the damage caused by his first trip by shooting Ronald Reagan.
  • Recess: While made in, and set during the 90s, when the 2000s rolled around, the show stuck around in the 90s.
  • Poked fun at in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, wherein the cast of The Jetsons travel through time to sue the present day - which, at the time Harvey Birdman aired, was now set further forward in time and more futuristic than The Jetsons.
    George Jetson: We're from the future.
    Elroy Jetson: Yeah, the 21st century!
    George Jetson: The magnificent far-off year of 2002!
    Birdman: (glances at desk calendar, dated 2004) Really.
    George Jetson: Yes, talking ape-man! We are from a society much advanced over your own! A society driven by sprockets! A technological marvel that gives us items such as... this! (pulls out a cell phone as big as he is; cue Peanut pulling out his own, much smaller cell phone)
  • Anomalisa is set in 2005, and released in 2015.