NBC relaunches its Thursday night comedy block on a political note. “Parks and Recreation” (8:30 p.m.) takes Leslie Knope to Washington, D.C. The newly anointed city councilwoman goes to visit her boyfriend, congressional aide Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott). It’s safe to say that no fictional TV good government geek since Lisa Simpson has shown as much enthusiasm for Washington’s obscure sites and overlooked monuments.
Along the way, Leslie develops a distinct case of insecurity about leaving Ben alone in a city whose “industry” seems driven by tall, blond Amazon staffers, creatures she likens to hybrids made by Neiman Marcus and C-SPAN. This vulnerable, jealous side allows Leslie’s character to grow beyond her usual two-dimensional, delusional dork. This rare spasm of self-pity also obscures Leslie’s introduction to two of her personal heroes, Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Olympia Snowe of Maine. She also has a curious run-in with another senator and former presidential candidate, a scene shown frequently in network promotions. All three lawmakers wisely play it straight and acquit themselves well.
• If last week’s season debut of “Saturday Night Live” is any indication, “SNL Weekend Update Thursday” (7 p.m., NBC) has room for improvement. The biggest “news” of “SNL” was the elevation of series regular Jay Pharoah to the task of impersonating President Barack Obama.
He appeared only in one skit, and most of his work was introducing short clips of Jason Sudeikis as challenger Mitt Romney. Was “SNL” keeping Pharoah under wraps to save him for tonight’s special? Or because he wasn’t very good?
• “Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce” (5:30 p.m., HBO) interviews more than a dozen children who have gone through the harrowing ordeal; they share insight, advice and “rules” for divorcing couples to soften the blow for their own kids. Produced by Rosie O’Donnell.
Tonight’s other highlights
• The loss of her show puts Ava to the test on the season premiere of “Up All Night” (7:30 p.m., NBC).
• Newcomers throw Jim and Dwight a curveball on the season premiere of “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC). This is the show’s final season.
• An aspiring performer turns to Britney Spears for inspiration on “Glee” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Louie’s big career move continues on “Louie” (9:30 p.m., FX).