HomeFront: The Weekender shifts gears, comfort video, comfort diversions, and comfort food

Welcome to our temporary takeover of The Weekender, offering the best ways to stay entertained at home any day of the week

Octavia Spencer stars in the Netflix series "Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker."
Octavia Spencer stars in the Netflix series "Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker."Amanda Matlovich/Netflix

As this weekly digest came together a mere seven days ago, arts and entertainment events were vanishing from schedules faster than we could delete them from the story. That was The Weekender, conceived and executed back when — for many people — weekdays meant work and weekends meant relaxation. In our new self-isolating reality, every day can feel like a weekend, whether you’re trying to work from the couch, commuting on a sparsely populated trolley, or finally trying a recipe you bookmarked three years ago. Uncertainty is the order of the day. Everyone needs a break.

Welcome to HomeFront, both an escape and a coping mechanism. We can’t stop thinking about what’s happening out in the world, but that doesn’t have to be all we’re thinking about.


IN THE ZONE: With epidemiology dominating the headlines, the rich and famous are in the same boat as the great unwashed, just on much fancier couches. Celebrity news that isn’t health related is scarce, and the Names column is on hiatus. In its place, the Globe’s arts editors have started a new section, Comfort Zone, with stories, advice, and tips for staying on an even keel while we wait out the coronavirus crisis. We’d love to hear tales from your own home front. How are you coping? Distracting your kids? Exercising? Feeding everyone? Contact us at arts@globe.com. Speaking of which ...

FUEL UP: What do we cook during trying times? How do we think about food? And what should we do with all of those cans of beans? For answers to these questions, along with plenty of delicious recipes, visit globe.com/food — where you’ll soon see a sign-up for Cooking From Home, a two-week newsletter from Globe food critic Devra First.

Meanwhile, former Globe food editor Sheryl Julian has advice and suggestions for anyone exploring the wonderful world of pantry cooking. And please remember that many hard-hit Boston restaurants remain open for takeout and delivery.


And now back to the couch!

USE YOUR HEAD: In “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker," the legendary entrepreneur played by Octavia Spencer starts out as an impoverished washerwoman. Within 20 years, the hair-care mogul becomes one of the country’s first Black female self-made millionaires. “Madam’s always been a part of my upbringing,” the Academy Award-winning Spencer tells Globe correspondent Isaac Feldberg. "I just wanted to do right by her.” Bostonian DeMane Davis directed two of the four episodes (Kasi Lemmons helmed the others). On Netflix Friday.

HOT STUFF: Based on the best-selling novel by Cambridge resident Celeste Ng, “Little Fires Everywhere” comes to the small screen with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington playing suburban moms who have almost nothing else in common. Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert isn’t blown away — “There isn’t a lot of subtlety in the episodes I’ve seen so far,” he writes — but the eight-part series “has some entertainment value as it looks into the racial, maternal, and communal sides of American suburbia.” The first three episodes are streaming on Hulu.

OR GO TO THE SOURCE: When “Little Fires Everywhere” was published in 2017, critic Laura Collins-Hughes called it “delectable and engrossing.” She said the novel offers “a pointed and persuasive social critique, teasing out the myriad forms of privilege and predation that stand between so many people and their achievement of the American dream.”


GLASS HALF FULL: Globe film critic Ty Burr had modest hopes for the direct-to-streaming “Blow the Man Down,” set in Maine and starring Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor as sisters coping with the death of their mother. Thanks to the virtual shutdown of the movie industry, the “Down East noir” from writer-directors Bridget Savage Cole (a Beverly native) and Danielle Krudy has the spotlight to itself. It’s “pretty great — not quite ‘Fargo’ with lobsters but close enough,” Burr says. On Amazon Prime starting Friday.

PLAY BALL: The world of amateur and professional sports has had a weird couple of weeks. With live action almost entirely in timeout, the Globe sports staff steps up to suggest movies and books to enjoy while waiting for arenas and ballparks to reopen. I have some notes — where’s “The Natural,” folks? — but couldn’t be more delighted to see “Slap Shot” on the list. Drop some trivia: The screenwriter, Framingham native Nancy Dowd, shared the Academy Award for best original screenplay. (Not for “Slap Shot”! A year later, for “Coming Home”!)

A view of the farm where Andrew Wyeth painted "Christina's World."
A view of the farm where Andrew Wyeth painted "Christina's World."Erin Clark/Globe Staff

HIT THE ROAD: Museums around the world are sharing their treasures virtually while galleries are closed, but even the highest-quality virtual tour lacks the pizzazz of a 3-D experience. Into that gap (a social distance, if you will) steps Globe art critic Murray Whyte with a new series, Pilgrimages. It launches with a trip to rural Cushing, Maine, setting of Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 masterpiece “Christina’s World." The painting is some 380 miles away at MoMA, but the landscape looks much as it did seven decades ago. See it with Whyte in Sunday’s Globe.


NOW YOU SEE THEM: Committed to the couch? Grab your headphones and fire up the Gardner Museum Theft Walk audio tour, which scratches an itch for art lovers and true-crime aficionados alike. The March 18, 1990 heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — currently in coronavirus shutdown — is an unexpectedly perfect subject for the offbeat project, narrated by head of security Anthony Amore. “There’s something perfect about Amore’s natural cadence, slow and clear, crumbling at the edges," writes Murray Whyte. "The theft is the Gardner’s loss, but there’s something unmistakable, in hearing his voice, that it’s just as much Amore’s.”

BE HERE NOW: Like the Gardner, local art galleries are changing gears on the fly. The Boston Center for the Arts, for example, quickly reinvented “FeministFuturist” as a digital exhibition. “Everyone loved the show so much,” director of visual arts Randi Hopkins tells Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. “So we said: How can we be creative about keeping the exhibition alive and creative and vital for the community and the artists?” Also taking up the slack: newly launched websites, social media and other ways of interacting with art lovers, and a wealth of video content, including gallery tours, lectures, and artist interviews.


ONE HAND CLAPPING: With concert halls shuttered, classical music buffs are turning to recordings — “an imperfect substitute but one we will likely embrace more than ever as our weeks of isolation tick by,” says Globe correspondent David Weininger. Among his recommendations are work by three performers who were scheduled to play Symphony Hall this spring as well as a Handel and Haydn Society recording that features Haydn’s “Harmoniemesse” (as a stand-in for Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”). And Zoë Madonna, who covers classical and pop music for the Globe, rounds up free livestreams of classical music here.

Illustrator and children's book author Mo Willems is offering daily art lessons.
Illustrator and children's book author Mo Willems is offering daily art lessons. John Blanding/Globe staff/file

DO IT YOURSELF: Steeping yourself in fine art is a fine coping mechanism for adults, but it won’t fly with most children. Many parents are turning to YouTube and other platforms where kids can take art classes. A friend confides that her preteen’s happiest time of the day is when Massachusetts-based illustrator Mo Willems is giving drawing lessons online. “Young people need rhythm and schedule, and they need to know what’s coming next,” author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka, a veteran video-enabled instructor, tells Globe correspondent Grace Griffin.

SIT A SPELL: If you, like me, have tried to buy a jigsaw puzzle online recently, you know that there’s been a bit of a run on low-tech, family-friendly pastimes. Before you shop, rummage around in the rec room or under the coffee table — you might be surprised by what’s in there. One game I’d be delighted to find is Bananagrams, invented in Narragansett, R.I., and such a phenomenon that it’s hard to believe it’s only 15 years old. And this 2014 roundup of non-video games offers plenty of other options.

FILM AND TV FESTIVALS: Ty Burr sifted through literally thousands of reviews to come up with this list of 10 forgotten gems that are worth seeking out. Matthew Gilbert doled out recommendations for viewers who like “The Crown,” “Victoria,” and “American Housewife.” And I recommended these lists last week, but there are only so many hours in a day: Burr’s seven “mini movie festivals” and Gilbert’s roundup of the 10 best TV shows of 2020 so far.

BUT REALLY: Send your tips and suggestions to arts@globe.com, even if you have to take your phone into the laundry room to get away from your noisy teenagers. They’ll never look in there, right? Then change out of your sweatpants and go for a walk. Pick up some takeout and tip like it’s your job. Hug a loved one you’re allowed to touch. Wash your hands!