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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 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 like cellphones.

Specifically the inverse of Twenty Minutes Into the Future with a similarly vague sense of sometime over that way, just not now. Compare and contrast Next Sunday AD.

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

Examples of Twenty Minutes Into the Past include:

Anime and Manga



  • 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.
  • Despite being set in the title 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.

Live Action TV

  • That 70s Show
  • How I Met Your Mother is an interesting example, as the main story takes place in the present, but is narrated as if it were 20-something years in the past.
  • Life On Mars and its American counterpart, which both take place in the 1970s.
  • MASH 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.
  • Mad Men. Set in the 1960's, started in 2008.
  • Pan Am. Set in the early 1960's, started in 2011.
  • The (very) short lived The Playboy Club. Set in 1961, started in 2011.
  • 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 Twenty Minutes Into the Past by at least the 2nd Season. Then it got more complicated.

Video Games

  • 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.

Western Animation

  • Once every few seasons, The Simpsons do 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 & 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 & 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.
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