Nicholas Christakis: the epidemiologist who knows the value of a good knees-up | Rebecca Nicholson

As a Christmas present to myself, I had a long, luxurious binge-listen to the wonderful podcast Transmissions: the Definitive Story of Joy Division and New Order. It earns that “definitive” in the title.

Narrated by Maxine Peake, and featuring interviews with pretty much everyone you could want to hear from, plus a few surprises, it is in-depth, affectionate and frank. When the story gets to the shambolic opening of infamous Manchester nightclub The Haçienda, with its awful sound, cavernous space and organisational “issues”, I had terrible pangs for a proper night out, even one in a newly opened club where the paint was yet to dry on the dancefloor.

Listening to people talk about their hedonistic youth was far more moving than it might have been a year ago. Nightclubs are closed in all tiers. Few could argue with that. But I loved reading what Dr Nicholas Christakis, a social epidemiologist, had to say about the post-pandemic near future. (Among the many twists and turns that 2020 has presented to us, the rise of the famous epidemiologist has been a real treat; I could not have predicted that I would remember how to spell epidemiologist at the start of the year, let alone be able to express a preference for one, as if collecting Panini stickers.) In his book, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, Christakis explains how humans tend to respond to pandemics, such as the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, and how we behave in the aftermath.

Christakis has good news, and bad. The bad news is that he thinks it will take time to get through the eventual aftermath, probably until 2024. The good news is that he believes we are on course for another “roaring 20s”, eventually. “People will relentlessly seek out social interactions,” he told the Guardian, and I truly hope that this relentlessness is a promise.

For many, this is a traditional time of year for parties and, as a very different New Year’s Eve approaches, the necessity of not partying en masse, of not celebrating as usual, may well bite a little sharper. It isn’t a big deal, in the grand scheme of things, and most sensible and responsible people know that by now. Even so, for those of us who love and crave nightlife, who miss the heat, the crowds, the mess, the drama, the night and the noise, it is OK to have pangs, and to read the words of someone like Christakis, and take from them some hope and reassurance that we will, one day, get to experience all of that again.

Margot Robbie, in

a Barbie film worth waiting for

Getting excited about new films this year has felt a little like investing in a long and convoluted TV show that you just know is going to have a disappointing ending. You dare to dream that it will pull out the stops and fulfil its potential; you end up feeling as if that’s 12 hours down the pan.

The promise of a new film is, inevitably and reasonably, a wobbly proposition. Either its release date disappears into a stretched out and nebulous maybe-future, or it flops out on demand, proving to an underwhelmed audience that big screens, bombastic sound systems and communal viewing really do make a blockbuster sing.

I am allowing myself to get excited, however, after discovering that Margot Robbie is starring in and producing a live-action Barbie film. The news had been out since summer 2019, but Robbie has discussed it publicly for the first time with the Hollywood Reporter.

She said that the film would confound expectations. “Our goal is to be like, ‘Whatever you’re thinking, we’re going to give you something totally different – the thing you didn’t know you wanted.’”

Given that Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) and Greta Gerwig (Ladybird, Little Women) are attached to co-write, and Gerwig to direct, it does sound as if it will be totally different. It’s like hearing there will be a live Peppa Pig feature, directed by Lynne Ramsay, though I would watch that, too. I look forward to seeing whatever Barbie emerges, and hopefully it will be a thrilling one, in 2027, or whenever it may be.

Kim Cattrall: more Sex, with or without her

In the world of TV, the endless reboot/revival merry-go-round continues. If you haven’t watched television for a decade, don’t worry, it will be as if you never went away, judging by what is likely to come to our screens over the next couple of years.

There is talk of new versions of Dexter, True Blood and In Treatment, all of which feel as if they only just said goodbye. And now, according to Deadline, Sex and the City may well be set for a comeback.

This is the Smiths reunion of television, like seeing Morrissey and Marr on stage together again. Yet it probably won’t be the full package. Anyone who follows the ongoing saga of Samantha will know that Kim Cattrall, who plays her, is unlikely to return. She has been outspoken about this over the years. Will it work without her? Perhaps. Sex and the City, the series, remains a far smarter and sharper show than its legacy, with its bakery tours of Manhattan and “which character are you” quizzes and clinking cosmos.

While even fans must pray that the ill-advised movie jaunt to Abu Dhabi is erased from its history, a return to its TV origins could be promising.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


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