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20 Minutes into the Past

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"The past is another country. 1987's just the Isle of Wight."
Ninth Doctor, Doctor Who, "Father's Day" (2005)

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 or nostalgic 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 parts of modern life that can make the plot unworkable, such as mobile phones and social media like YouTube and Facebook.


In some cases, this can be the result of the work in question being a prequel to a work that was set in the present day, a sequel to a work in which much less time passes between the works in universe compared to real life, an adaptation of a work that was set in the present at the time of its release, or a work with a long production process that was set in the present when work began on it.

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 

    Comic Books 
  • The pre-Crisis Superboy series, via its use of a floating timeline, saw the Boy of Steel's era set in the relative past. As such, an early 1970s story saw Lana Lang interested in hula hoops, while the 1980s run saw Clark meeting President Kennedy.
  • Puerto Rico Strong is a 2018 anthology. Several comics take place in the recent past, such as Family Ends With Me taking place in 1969 and The Dragon of Bayamón taking place in 1973.
  • The Babysitters Club is set in the 1990s according to the technology. It isn't as blatant as in the original books, namely because the fashion is more ambiguous.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • Anomalisa is set in 2005, and released in 2015.
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a downplayed example, it takes place in 2020, despite being released in early 2021. However production started in 2020 and it was originally meant to be released in 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Turning Red is a Period Piece set in Toronto during the spring of 2002, but was released in 2022.

    Film — Live Action 

    Light Novels 
  • Fate/Zero was originally written in 2007, while the main plot, a prequel to Fate/stay night set during the previous Holy Grail War 10 years prior, takes place in the mid-1990s.
  • Modern Villainess: It's Not Easy Building a Corporate Empire Before the Crash was published in 2020, but the main plot is set at the mid-2000s. Some Alternate History is involved, but solely used to justify the continued existence of the Kazoku class.note 

  • Twenty Minutes Into The Past: Released in 1989, the modern day settings outside of the framing story are set in 1987.
  • 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.
  • Axiom's End, released in 2020, is set in 2007.
  • The novel Blue Valentine was published in 2018 but the events take place in 2009.
  • The Casual Vacancy was written in 2012 but never gives a precise date, though certain pop culture references put it late in the aughts.
  • Capital is set in the 2008 financial crash but was published in 2012.
  • The Case Files of Ibrahim Helsing, while being first published in 2021, take place in the year 2019.
  • Cormoran Strike Novels: 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.
  • 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.
  • Don DeLillo's Falling Man was published in 2007 and is set in New York immediately after the September 11 attacks of 2001.
  • Dekada '70, originally written around 1982 and set in, well, The '70s in the Philippines. The Film of the Book came out in 2002 and spans a time period roughly from 1969–1983.
  • Ghost of Spirit Bear was released in 2008, but takes place just as Cole and Peter get back to Minneapolis from the island in Touching Spirit Bear, setting the book around 2003.
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter is set between 1991-1998 or so while the books were released 1997-2007 and the films 2001-2011. Both the books and movies mostly avoid exact years, which, combined with the general lack of modern technology in the Wizarding world, means they could easily be set anywhere from around the 80s to the 2000s, although the films definitely look like they are set in the aughts (despite officially taking place in the nineties as well).
  • No Country for Old Men, published 2005, set in 1980.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower was published in 1999 and takes place in the 1991-92 school year.
  • The first two books of The Platinum Key series were published in 2015 but set around 2007.
  • Sisterland was published in 2013, with most non-flashback chapters set in 2009.
  • 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 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.
  • Jules Verne loves this trope, despite everybody assuming his books are meant to be futuristic:
  • 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 listen 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.
  • Little Fires Everywhere, published in 2017, set in 1997-98, with copious references to pop culture at the time, including the Lewinsky scandal, which in this book was overshadowed by a local child custody battle.
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation: Published in 2018, set between 2000 and 2001.
  • Rogue was published in 2013 but set in 2006, when Congress banned the over-the-counter sale of pseudoephedrine.
  • Harmony (2016) is set mostly in 2012, with flashbacks from the late 2000s and early 2010s.
  • Miracle Creek was published in 2019 and revolves around an explosion in the summer of 2008 and the trial a year later.
  • Shtum, published in 2017, set in the spring and summer of 2011.
  • Love Anthony, published in 2012, set in 2010 and early 2011.
  • There's More Than One Way Home, published in 2017, set in mid-2004.
  • I Think I Love You was published in 2011 and set half in 1974, half in 1998.
  • Language Arts, published in 2015, set in the school year of 2012-2013.
  • If I Fall, If I Die was published in 2015 but seems to be set in The '90s, judging by the lack of internet and the mention of shoulder pads in a flashback to Will's early childhood.
  • The Woman in White is set ten years before its release, having been serialized from 1859-60 and taking place in 1849-50.
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was published in 1995 and is set mostly around 1985-1986.
  • House of Leaves was released in 2000 but is set from 1990-1998.
  • Blue Iguana was published in 2013 and set in 2008, when seven iguanas were killed in an attack.
  • Island's End was published in 2011 and set in 2004, at the time of the tsunami that devastated the Andaman Islands.
  • The Stim books were published in 2013 and 2014 but set in 2010 and 2011, on time for two earthquakes to strike.
  • Post-High School Reality Quest was published in 2017 and is set in 2009 and 2010, during Buffy's freshman year of college.
  • Sanctuary was published in 2022 and is set in the winter and spring of what is revealed late in the book to be 2018.
  • The Black Fox of Beckham was published in 2019 and is set a year or two before fox hunting was banned in England in 2005.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Seasons one and three of Fargo are set in, respectively, 2006 and 2010, but first aired in 2014 and 2017. Seasons two and four, on the other hand, are straight period pieces, being set in 1979 and 1950.
  • Freaks and Geeks made in 1999-2000 was set in 1980.
  • Fresh Off the Boat, being loosely based on the childhood of chef Eddie Huang (born 1982), takes place in the 1990s.
  • Girlboss aired in 2017 and is set in 2006, the year the Nasty Gal fashion company was founded (the series is a heavily fictionalized retelling of how this happened).
  • The Goldbergs made its debut in 2013, and is set in the 1980s.
  • Happy Days. Set in the 1950s-1960s, ran from 1974 to 1984.
  • 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 Kids Are Alright (2018) was released in 2018 and is set in the 1970s.
  • The 2006 Life on Mars and its 2008 American counterpart, which both take place in 1973.
  • Lost started out as Present Day (namely 2004), but was definitely this by at least the second season. Then it got more complicated.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Mrs. America, the 2020 miniseries starring Cate Blanchett, is set in the early 1970s.
  • Our Friends in the North aired in 1996 and took place in 1964, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1974, 1979, 1984, 1987 and 1995.
  • Sam and Al on Quantum Leap were natives of 20 Minutes into the Future, but Sam always leaped into the recent past.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • In the April 8, 2000 episode hosted by Christopher Walken, there was the "More Cowbell" sketch which satirized Blue Öyster Cult's recording of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" set in 1976.
    • In the Season 47 episode 18 on April 16, 2022, there was a skit about The Black Eyed Peas making the songs "I Gotta Feeling" and "Boom Boom Pow". It was made in 2022 but set in 2008, both on April 16.
  • Storm of the Century: While the miniseries was released in 1999, it's set in the late 1980s.
  • Stranger Things famously uses this trope to lean heavily on 1980s nostalgia and pop culture. Aimed in large part at people who would have been the same age as the early-teen protagonists at the time, the show was first released in 2016, with the first three seasons spanning the time period Fall 1983-Summer 1985.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Treme Ran from 2010-2013, Set in Recently post-Hurricane Katrina 2005 era New Orleans.
  • In a Downplayed example, Twin Peaks originally ran from 1990-1991 but was explicitly set in 1989.
    • Similarly, the revival series (Twin Peaks: The Return) was released in 2017, but since it was a plot point that the series took place exactly twenty-five years after the original run, it was presumably set circa 2014.
  • The beginning of The X-Files is set in early 1992 though the show started in 1993.

    Tabletop Games 

    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.
    • House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn finally came out in 2018, but is an interquel set in 2006, between 4 and III.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum: Released in 2009, the game is canonically set in 2001, as it is set eight years after Origins, which in turn is set in 93 if the Easter Egg detailing the re-opening of the titular Asylum is anything to go by. At the time of release the game seemed to take place in the time it was made (The year before The New '10s started) with the exception of the digital bars on cells that shock you if you try to escape.
  • 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. Five Nights at Freddy's 4 and Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location are more ambiguous about when they’re set, but they likely both take place in either the The '80s or The '90s as well.
  • In the Grand Theft Auto series, most of the games in the "Grand Theft Auto III era" (i.e. the ones released during The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games) were explicitly set in the past:
  • Telltale's 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 2012/13, is initially set in 2003.
  • Ace Combat:
  • According to an official "Campster" site parodying Friendster, Psychonauts, which was released in 2006, is set during 2003.
  • Hypnospace Outlaw, released in 2019, is initially set in late 1999.
  • Life Is Strange makes consistent use of this trope, typically setting its stories around 18 months to two years before the date each game is published:
  • 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 80s-model space ship complete with vinyl records, CRT monitors, and ugly carpets and wallpapers.
  • The fifth game in the Delta Force series, Black Hawk Down, eschews the normal near-future setting in favor of a period piece set in 1993 during and around the Battle of Mogadishu. However, some of the missions take place a decade later in 2003, when the game itself was released, with the missions in the expansion Team Sabre following suit, set and released in 2004.
  • Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis was released in 2001 and set in 1985, with an epilogue of 1991. Its spiritual sequel, ARMA: Armed Assault, was set in mid-2006 and was released in late 2006. Later ARMA games go progressively further into the future instead, though with the scenario editor allowing to set custom campaigns as far back as 1980, depending on the game.
  • Postal III doesn't explicitly state when it takes place, but through its political commentary all but outright says it's the very tail end of George W. Bush's presidency in 2008, which made it immediately dated when it actually came out in 2011.
  • Death Trips takes place on the Halloween of 2008, but was released in 2018.
  • Superliminal: Portable stereos and clunky computer monitors abound, along with explicit environmental mentions that the year is 1991. However, environmental text also include notes made in 2014 and 2008.
  • Resident Evil:
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was released in 2007. The sequel confirms (in a conveniently captioned photo in Drake's journal) that it took place in 2001.

    Visual Novels 
  • When They Cry:
    • 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. She is now quite melancholy due to being the Sole Survivor of her entire town after an incident in 1983.
    • Likewise, Umineko, released starting in 2007, is largely split between a series of murders in October 1986 and its aftermath in 1998. Both can be pretty anachronistic when it suits them, mostly when the author wants to make some reference to some mid-2000s moe trope or another.
  • Mahou Tsukai no Yoru was released in April 2012 and takes place in the late 1980s.
  • Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair was released in August 2016, and takes place on the night before Halloween in 2010.
    • The prequel, Genba No Kizuna started production after Shinrai and takes place on September 12, 2010.
  • Katawa Shoujo is a 2012 visual novel set in 2008. This is a result of it being Frozen in Time: the game's development began around 2008.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum, released in 2009 and mostly looking like it, is canonically set in 2001, as it is set eight years after Batman: Arkham Origins, which in turn is set in 93 if the Easter Egg detailing the re-opening of the titular Asylum is anything to go by.

  • El Goonish Shive is an interesting case. It started its run in 2002, and is still going strong in 2018. Word of God says that the fan-made timeline on the wiki is canon, meaning that the events of the comic take place in 2013-2014... so the comic began as Next Sunday A.D. but is by now set in the recent past.
  • 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 - ten years before when the show started airing.
  • Once every few seasons, The Simpsons does an episode of this.
    • "The Way We Was" (1991), 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.
    • "I Married Marge" (also 1991) is set in 1980, showing Homer and Marge seeing The Empire Strikes Back in theaters and Homer inadvertently giving away the film's (then-)big plot twist as they're leaving.
    • "Lisa's First Word" (1992), which features Homer and Marge as a young couple with baby Bart, is set in 1983-84: Marge has a throw-away line about the final episode of M.A.S.H., and later in the episode there are numerous references to the 1984 Olympics.
    • "That 90s Show" (2008) is set in The '90s and 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 (the latter is lampshaded in "Lisa's Sax" when Homer says that in 1990, "Tracey Ullman was entertaining America with songs, sketches, and crudely drawn filler material").
    • 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 70s 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 his torso; cue Peanut answering a call on his own, much smaller cell phone)
  • Total Drama: Island is the only season to take place in the year it originally aired in: 2007. Action takes place during the second half of the summer of 2007,note  even though it was released in 2009. World Tour and Revenge of the Island take place in 2008,note  despite being released in 2010 and 2012, respectively. All-Stars and Pahkitew Island take place in 2009,note  while the actual seasons were released in 2013 and 2014. The Ridonculous Race was released in 2015, but it takes place in 2010.note