After the failure of his 1989-90 CBS comedy “The Famous Teddy Z,” Jon Cryer was a little hesitant about returning to series TV.

“Teddy Z,” in which Cryer (“Pretty in Pink”) played a young Hollywood talent agent, had been acclaimed by the critics as the show of the season. “But nobody saw it,” laments Cryer, who is funnier than most sitcoms. “ ‘Teddy Z’ was a tough experience for me because I loved the show. I was very proud of it. Comedy Central picked it up, which was very gratifying to see.”

He also was worried about making a commitment to a series. “You are either committing to the next couple of weeks while you are shooting the pilot or the next seven years of your life,” Cryer, 30, explains. “Just the nature of the commitment makes you nervous.”


But Cryer felt comfortable when he met Jeff Strauss and Jeff Greenstein (a.k.a. “the Jeffs”), the executive producers and creators of Fox’s new series “Partners.” Strauss and Greenstein were supervising producers on NBC’s hit “Friends.”

“These are the two guys who can have instant rapport with just about anybody because they are real nice,” says Cryer. “It was just sort of an instant fraternity between the three of us, which made me feel like I could work with these guys.”

He felt the same camaraderie with co-stars Tate Donovan and Maria Pitillo. “We just completely hit it off,” says Cryer, relaxing on this early evening after rehearsals at his publicist’s office.

“I thought this would be a really good situation, so I thought, ‘Why not? Whatever happens happens.’ I wanted to do a show that it didn’t matter what happened. That wouldn’t be the source of my enjoyment of doing it. I just wanted to do a good show.”

Cryer’s Bob is partners with longtime friend Owen (Donovan) in a San Francisco architectural firm. Bob is the perennial, carefree bachelor; Owen is the type of guy mothers want their daughters to bring home and marry. Bob and Owen’s friendship changes when Owen becomes engaged to Alicia (Pitillo) and begins to make important decisions without Bob.

Cryer, son of actress Gretchen Cryer (“I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road”) and actor David Cryer (“Evita”), says Bob is vastly different from Teddy Z.


“My big problem with ‘Teddy Z’ was that I was the character who was the nice guy in the middle of all of these crazy people,” he says. “My big line was ‘ Really? ‘ That gets tired after a while. It’s not fun for an actor to be the straight man all the time. What is great about Owen and Bob is that there are no straight men.”

Suddenly, Cryer bursts out laughing. “A show in San Francisco with no straight men called ‘Partners.’ ... I think the way I am going to describe it from now on is that it’s two funny guys as opposed to no straight men.”

Cryer was surprised at one critic’s question at the semi-annual Television Critics Assn. gathering in Pasadena last summer. “The first question was, ‘So, how are you going to treat Bob’s gayness?’ I just looked at the Jeffs and said, ‘Well, how are we? Considering I don’t even know about it.’ I think that was somebody reading more into the show.”

He also got flack for sporting a now overly trendy goatee. “Some guy said, ‘Are you aware that everybody is wearing goatees this year?’ I was, like, ‘No.’ I have had this thing for two years and done two films with it. I just wear it so I won’t look like a 12-year-old on his way to his bar mitzvah. It didn’t even occur to me it was because I was trying to be a hipster.”

Cryer, who has a girlfriend in England, has seen most of his own friends marry. “They all try to include me, which is awfully sweet, but all of a sudden, the boundaries are different. You don’t know what you are still allowed to do. Thankfully, I am close friends with all my friends’ wives, but that’s not to say all my friends are men. I have female friends who are married and that is weird, too. But so far, I’ve remained the third wheel in life as in sitcom. I am not going to get married soon.”

He has bittersweet memories of the time his first friend got married. “It was a big deal because I was really kind of a jerk about it,” Cryer acknowledges. As he relates it, Sasha, a female friend of his, set him up with a friend of hers from work.


“Sasha said, ‘I will bring David,’ who was a mutual friend, ‘along so I will have someone to talk to while you two hit it off so famously.’ ”

Unfortunately, David told Cryer that “all bets were off” if the blind date was cute. “She was indeed quite beautiful and all bets were off,” Cryer says, wistfully. “What I later found out was that she was really nervous to be around me because I was famous at that point. So she ended up not talking to me.”

But she did talk to David. A few weeks later, Cryer got a call from David informing him he had proposed to Cryer’s date. “He and I always had a competition thing because we were both actors and both started at the same time,” Cryer says. “I was just laughing and belittling the whole thing and he said, ‘Jon, this is something that’s really important in my life. I hoped you would be happy for me.’ The bottom fell out. I realized I was hurting this guy’s feelings.”

Cryer and Sasha ended up members of the wedding party. “I must have had the stupidest look on my face through the whole thing,” Cryer says, laughing. “Sasha and I were actually standing there saying, ‘If we were not so repulsive, things might have been different ...”

“Partners” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.