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Present Day

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"Present day... Heh! Present time! Ahahahaha!"
The opening of every episode of Serial Experiments Lain

Right now, the moment you begin reading this trope entry, the story in which this trope takes place is occurring.

Earth at approximately the time the series was made. Most things are as they would be in real life.

Most shows are set in this time. Some series take this further, constantly reminding the viewers that whatever is happening now, is happening now.


Compare 20 Minutes into the Future (close enough to be just a few years away but noticeably futuristic), Next Sunday A.D. (just ahead of the present day — the Alien Invasion arrived next week) and Long-Runner Tech Marches On. When a work is set in the recent past, but treats it as if it were Present Day to the point of including anachronisms, it's a Present-Day Past. If a work tries a bit too hard to look hip and cool in the present day, it'll likely come across as an Unintentional Period Piece later on.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Serial Experiments Lain (the Trope Namer) opens each episode with a voice saying "Present day. Present time." and then laughing, even though much of the technology suggest the show probably takes place in the future or some alternate world. Many fans speculate that the ending turns this strange "present day" into the present day as we know it through Reality Warping. There's still a detail or two that don't quite fit in, though.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho shows us what happens when this is used and Technology Marches On—who uses VCRs anymore? Its setting is thus relegated to sometime in the mid-nineties, when the series was made. It helps that no actual dates are mentioned.

    Comic Books 
  • The first issue of Y: The Last Man takes place roughly now. For values of "now" equal to "2002", since that's when it was released, and actual dates are given in-series to confirm this.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! has right on its first scene the words "Present Day".
  • Draft Day centers around the 2014 NFL Draft. It was released in 2014, before the draft. In the real NFL draft, some people actually referred to this movie.
  • Attempted with the original trailer for Star Wars (with Klaatu's first visit, in which he acquired Keanu Reeves's DNA) is followed by a caption reading "Present Day."
    The Agony Booth: Hey, everybody, it's Present Day! Yaay!! Gosh, I hope I get an X-Box.


    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: "events occur in real-time". Even when several years or months pass between seasons, the day occurring is always implied to be the present.
  • Community.
  • Although the main story line of How I Met Your Mother takes place in the Present Day, this is actually a Flash Back, as Ted is telling the story to his kids in 2030. Some episodes even have flashbacks (FlashForwards?) to events that take place between the two.
  • Surprising for a show told in Anachronic Order, but Lost began this way, with the plane crash occurring on September 22, 2004, the same date the show premiered. However, it has never been set in the present after, instead being in the near-present: seasons 1-4 covered late 2004 to really early 2005 and the main action of season 5 takes place in 2007 and 1977.
  • FlashForward (2009) attempted this, with the date of the "blackout" being about when it first aired, and the date of the flashforward the expected date of the season finale, but a hiatus screwed up the scheduling. And then it was cancelled.
  • Except for a few specific cases, Doctor Who has a sliding 'present' which lines up with the current real date,; this is usually when the companion is from. Interestingly enough, partially avoided for the 5th series finale: Although for much of the season they were counting down to June 26th, 2010, the date of the season finale and destruction of the TARDIS, very little of the actual episode took place in that time period, dealing mostly with its time-spanning aftermath.
    • Inconsistently averted during the 3rd and 4th Doctors' years with UNIT. Depending on the Writer, these episodes were either set in the present day, or the near future (e.g., Sarah Jane explicitly says that she's from 1980, in an episode released in 1974).
  • Time Trax has criminals from the late 22nd century escaping to the present, or 1993, when the series aired.
  • The live-action adaptation of Death Note takes place in 2015, where the original series took place about 10 years earlier (at the time it was released).
  • Supernatural tries to do this, though it results in continuity errors because of ignored time jumps in at least two different seasons. But the date Dean is saved from Hell, is the same date that the Season 4 premiere first aired September 18, 2008.
  • Both Smallville pilot and its failed Aquaman would-be stable-mate had lengthy pre-title prologues set in the past with the protagonist as a child, followed by a caption reading "Present Day" and scenes setting up the main context of the show, with the opening credits overlaid.

  • Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds was infamous for use of this trope. Many listeners actually believed that the up-to-the-minute newscasts of an ongoing alien invasion were real.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Bliss Stage has the memorable back cover copy, "RIGHT NOW, the moment you begin reading this, Humanity is devastated by an alien attack from the edges of our understanding."

  • The Merry Wives of Windsor is William Shakespeare's only play set in his own era.
  • Many plays, when not set in a particular time, will be set in "the present." This becomes problematic when producing a play written in the 1940s in 2012.
  • Chess is an example of a show for which this became problematic much quicker than expected. Its first few productions required revisions to allow it to continue to make sense in "the present", and after 1991, only five years after it originally opened, there wasn't much choice but to treat it as a period piece instead.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto III has a good example of a "dated" present day: being made in 2001, Liberty City looks like any modern metropolis, but if you pay attention, you see how the 1998-2000 dot-com boom, when businessmen had just discovered the Internet, is still in full swing. Smartphones still didn't exist, text pagers were still in use, cars still sported the 90's curvy box look, nobody ever thought the person Donald Love was supposed to be satirizing would be the President of the United States, and Islamist terrorism wasn't even considered a threat compared to domestic crime.
  • The original Grand Theft Auto, Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and Grand Theft Auto V follow this trope in a similar vein. These games take place in timelines relative to the time periods the games debuted, but make no mention of the exact date or yearnote . This ambiguity allowed developers of downloadable content for GTA IV to incorporate allusions of real life events and elements of pop culture that emerge after the release of the game, even though events in both DLCs are supposed to occur at the same time as in GTA IV.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) starts one day before its actual release date on Oct. 24, 2019.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines supposedly takes place during its release year, 2004... and every computer in the Los Angeles area has an OS that looks like it came from the mid-1980's.

    Web Original 
  • Survival of the Fittest is set more or less in the modern day, with slight variations (George Bush isn't the President, for example, replaced with a fictional President, and Japan uses the Battle Royale act like in the eponymous film and book, which gave Danya the idea), but is technically set a year behind the real world. For example, v3 is the current game, played in 2008, but in the SOTF world it's 2007. With v3 finally nearing its end after about two years of play, the setting is now further behind.
  • This was done somewhat literally with the Bookfarters Saga, the crossover event between Shipwrecked Comedy and The Tin Can Bros.. Thanks to the meta-narrative, the story does take place in real-time as fans watched along via livestreams and social media. It's also notable that, thanks to Shipwrecked's fondness for historical fiction, it was the first of their projects to take place in Present Day since Kissing in the Rain.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons is an interesting use of "present day", because the show has been running so long and the characters never age. It becomes increasingly bizarre when characters have flashbacks to their childhoods. This is a case of a floating timeline.
  • Time Warp Trio was made in 2005. The "present" year as it is stated in the show? 2005, of course! The book series, being published in 1995, logically enough took place in that year.
  • Family Guy established the events of their first episode, Death Has A Shadow, to actually begin on January 31, 1999 (the episode's original airdate) in Back To The Pilot. The episode aired on November 13, 2011, but it could still be on September 11, 2011 (as it was mentioned to be just 10 years after September 11, 2001).
  • Family Guy's spinoff The Cleveland Show has an episode (California Dreamin') beginning exactly three years after the events of the first episode mentioned at the beginning of that episode, which is September 27, 2009 (the episode's original airdate, so it would be September 27, 2012). However, the episode aired on March 17, 2013.

Alternative Title(s): Present Day Present Time


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