Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere is the streaming service's big new show, a limited series on par with Big Little Lies for fans to settle into once a week. The comparison isn't accidental. Like BLL, Little Fires is produced by Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine, in conjunction with her co-star. In this case, instead of Nicole Kidman, it's Kerry Washington's Simpson Street. And much like the HBO series, Little Fires is based on a New York Times bestselling hit novel. But there are some differences. Fans are curious; when does Little Fires Everywhere take place? Warning: Spoilers for Little Fires Everywhere follow.
The Little Fires Everywhere novel was released in 2017, written by American author Celeste Ng. One could forgive viewers for assuming the story, set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, is a modern tale of 21st-century issues. Though the story is timeless in is family and motherhood issues it delves into, the novel is one of a particular era, the mid-to-late 1990s.
The opening scene of the novel is deliberately dated as 1998, and the story, which is told in flashbacks, begins during the latter half of the 1996-1997 school year. When it comes to adapting the novel for the small screen, Witherspoon and Washington stayed true to the novel's timeline. The soundtrack, the background pop culture, the outfits, even the stories on TV, are all part of a narrow band of precisely timed references that date events to the spring of 1997. Even the way the show is shot, with the oddly flat look of the Richardson home, is evocative of how TV shows looked during that era.
All of the music tracks in the first few episodes are deliberately timed as part of the 1990s milieu. When viewers meet Elena Richardson (Witherspoon), the Annie Lennox track "Little Bird" is playing, from her 1992 album, Diva. In the next scene, when Mia (Washington) is introduced at the supermarket, it's to the track "On and On" from Erykah Badu's 1997 debut album, Baduizm.
Both tracks not only firmly help define the characters, but speak to how up on the times they are, with Richardson being just a few years behind the times, with Mia is very current.
Those aren't the only references to the era. The most precise date comes in the second episode, when Izzy opens her locker to find someone taped up the famous Time Magazine "Yep, I'm Gay" cover with Ellen Degeneres. That issue was released in April of 1997.
For fans of the 1990s, this is a nostalgia trip of a show, ready to take viewers back to a particular time and place in the Clinton administration. It was a time when things felt like the stock market would always go up, and the middle class would be able to afford ever-expanding McMansions and Navigator SUVs.
But Newton's law never fails. What goes up, must come down. And sometimes, it might even burn to the ground.