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KSPS presents documentary on Dylan

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

“American Masters” (9 p.m., KSPS) opens a new season with “Bob Dylan: No Direction Home,” a two-part documentary directed by Martin Scorsese.

More than a biography of Dylan, “No Direction” explores all of the social, musical and political trends that converged in the first half of the 1960s in the folk-rock scene. Scorsese blends recent interviews with Dylan and his contemporaries with a wealth of archival footage, much of it never before seen.

Bob Dylan offers a surprisingly calm and lucid glance at his back pages. This stands in stark contrast to a lifetime of difficult interviews and cryptic fabrications about his past. “No Direction” does a wonderful job of sifting through the artist’s contradictory myths and acts of self-invention. But even the elder Dylan can’t resist resorting to legend polishing, comparing himself to guitarist Robert Johnson, who claimed to have acquired a wealth of talent in a short span of months after selling his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads.

An essential addition to any rock and pop-music history, “No Direction” explains how Dylan was inspired by the Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac and poet Allen Ginsberg (seen here in archival interviews), as well as the social-activist folk music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and The Weavers.

Part of the explosion of folk music in the early ‘60s came about as a direct result of the music’s suppression during the McCarthy era, when Seeger spent time in prison and when the U.S. Army disseminated pamphlets saying that people who played guitars had communist tendencies.

Tonight’s segment ends with Dylan’s triumphant reception at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival of 1963. Part two, airing tomorrow at 9 p.m., follows Dylan’s embrace of amplified rock music, an act that horrified folk purists but electrified the world of popular music, influencing The Beatles, The Byrds and thousands of rock, pop and country artists for decades to come.

In fact, when I first heard the rap song “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five way back in 1982, I was struck by how much it seemed like Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” a torrent of words; a knowing, contemporary manifesto; a song of anger, despair and no little wit. Grandmaster Flash is among those feted on tonight’s “Hip Hop Honors” (9 p.m., VH1), which recognizes the giants of the genre. Other notables include LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, The Notorious B.I.G., Ice-T and Salt-N-Pepa. Russell Simmons and Reverend Run host.

Charlize Theron joins the cast of “Arrested Development” (8 p.m., Fox) for the next five episodes. The Oscar winner will portray a stunning British woman who enters Michael’s life.

Get your glue guns ready. Designer Todd Oldham shares thoughts on patterns, color and home-improvement crafts in the five-part series “Handmade Modern” (8 p.m., HGTV).

Tonight’s other highlights

In search of a beached leviathan on “Surface” (8 p.m., NBC).

Bogus chips on “Las Vegas” (9 p.m., NBC).

Lincoln’s execution date may be moved up on “Prison Break” (9 p.m., Fox).

Denver hosts Kansas City on “Monday Night Football” (6 p.m., ABC).

Death by yacht on “CSI: Miami” (10 p.m., CBS).

A song stuck in her head may provide Allison with a clue on “Medium” (10 p.m., NBC).

Series notes

Charlotte Rae (“The Facts of Life”) guest stars on “The King of Queens” (8 p.m., CBS) … Arnaz gets some musical exposure on “One on One” (8 p.m., UPN) … Martin reels on “7th Heaven” (8 p.m., WB).

Ted throws a party on “How I Met Your Mother” (8:30 p.m., CBS) … An epidemic of pilfering on “Kitchen Confidential” (8:30 p.m., Fox) … It’s getting hot on “All of Us” (8:30 p.m., UPN).

Drawing conclusions on “Two and a Half Men” (9 p.m., CBS) … Just a gal who can’t say no on “Girlfriends” (9 p.m., UPN) … A question of identification on “Just Legal” (9 p.m., WB) … An intervention thwarted on “Out of Practice” (9:30 p.m., CBS) … Belt tightening on “Half & Half” (9:30 p.m., UPN).

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