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TV has done an impressive job of peeling back the curtain on the world of stand-up comedy. "Crashing," "I'm Dying Up Here" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" gave those of us in a peanut gallery accurate examples of just how much frustration, exhaustion, pressure and exhilaration accompany the craft of telling jokes.

"Hacks," which chronicles the relationship of an insecure, budding comedy writer and her ego-driven boss, is not one of those shows.

Season 3, now streaming on Max, has so many scenes that don't ring true. Since we last spent time with aging legend Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), she's churned out the hottest special of the year, cracked the Time 100 list and appeared in a Super Bowl commercial. She's so beloved that paying customers roar at everything she says onstage. In reality, audiences aren't that starstruck — even in Minnesota.

Despite her massive comeback, she's still hocking products on a home-shopping network and co-hosting a parade with Mario Lopez. She spends more time organizing a politically incorrect Christmas party than working out new material at clubs. We're also supposed to believe that Vance can fill in for an ailing talk-show host with only an hour of prep time. Fat chance.

Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), whom Vance fired at the end of Season 2, is on a hot streak of her own, contributing scripts to a popular sitcom. But we rarely see her at the office. There are more scenes of her showering nude with her girlfriend and devouring Tom Cruise's coconut cake in a posh hotel than her toiling away in a writers' room.

"Hacks" was never good at teaching us anything about how show business really works. Its superpower has been heralding witty women with a lot more on their minds than lassoing Mr. Big. The chance for Vance to be the next James Corden triggers their reunion.

"They've both reached this new incredible heights of their career; and yet they realize they still need each other," co-creator Jen Statsky said during a news conference last month in West Hollywood. "Deborah needs Ava to push her. Ava needs Deborah because there is a spark there she doesn't get from anyone else."

The cast is, once again, splendid. Smart, who has earned two Emmys for playing Vance, might add a third to her collection, thanks to scenes like the one in which she learns that she's been "canceled" from a college event after students discover cringey material from her past.

"I can't be woke," Vance says. "I'm exhausted."

Einbinder should eventually join her co-star in the winner's circle. She's both hilarious and heartbreaking when she realizes her boss has betrayed her for the umpteenth time.

Female guest stars continue to shine. Helen Hunt plays a ruthless executive more interested in winning on the pickleball court than comforting network talent. Christina Hendricks has a side-splitting cameo as a sadistic power broker aroused by caddies. Kaitlin Olson, as Vance's oft-neglected daughter, gets the biggest laughs of all nine episodes when she skewers mom during a celebrity roast.

But nothing is more entertaining than when Einbinder and Smart bounce off each other with no one else around, like when they get lost on an accident-prone hike. It's the TV romance you root for the most.

"We make a show about the specific depth of the love shared between people who laugh together and it's kind of meta, because that's like what we do every day," Einbinder said near the end of the news conference. "And there is no greater bond than the one between like funny people who collaborate."