He's a fussy father on "Two and a Half Men," but in reality Jon Cryer is much more laid-back. His idea of fun? A friend's combination barbecue-massage party, which he describes as the "most perfect thing -- you're eating all that barbecue and you feel great after a massage, what more could you want?"

A veteran of theatrical movies and television, Cryer will begin his third season co-starring with Charlie Sheen when the CBS Monday night comedy returns in the fall. He plays Alan Harper, a divorced dad who dons skinny belts, plaid shirts, white socks with dark shoes -- anything that is the opposite of cool. At the sitcom's center are the amusing antics between uptight Alan, his playboy brother (Sheen) and his rambunctious son, Jake (Angus T. Jones).

Cryer recently chatted with TV Week about his career, his own life as a single dad and his love of breakfast cereal.

How much like Alan are you?

I am not as neurotic and anal as Alan; it is too much work. I'm lazier than Alan, but I like him. . . . People ask me, 'Don't you want him to dress better?' I feel bad for our costume designer. She has to dress me the same way every week.

What's the schedule on a weekly sitcom?

It's much worse for the writers than for us, because they are nose-to-the-grindstone from June through April. But the actors get breaks. It's fantastic if you have a family. You get to spend time with them. You shoot shows that are on four weeks later so you have a real live theater feeling.

More than on an hour drama in prime time?

Exactly. I was asking why they killed off Sasha Alexander's character in the season finale of "NCIS." I couldn't believe it when I saw it. I was like, "What? Wait! You don't kill off a main character like that!" I know all the "NCIS" guys. Nobody mentioned it, but they work so hard on that show; the hours are insane. And after two years, Sasha was just burned out.

You said your show lets you spend time with your family. Do you have children?

I have a son, Charlie, who's 5, and it's the perfect age. He's into cartoons and will watch "Tom and Jerry" over and over. On Sunday mornings we sit and eat cereal and watch cartoons. Charlie's in his pajamas; I'm in my underwear. It's perfect.

What kind of cereal?

Life cereal. We eat a lot of cereal. And the time I spend with Charlie is really fun time. There are people who work from 8 a.m. till 7:30 p.m., and when do they get to see their kids? It's really sad.

Do you ever bring your son to work?

He's come with me a few times. He loves how fake the set is. You look behind the house and there's no house, and he loves that big picture of the ocean. He really likes Charlie Sheen; they get along very well. Whenever the show is on at home, I'll say to him, "Who's that?" and he says "Charlie Sheen." I say, "No, no, the guy next to him!"

Tell me something funny about Charlie Sheen.

He is superstitious. I think it comes from his sports involvement. He was a baseball fanatic growing up and is quite a talented pitcher. He considers it bad luck if they do something on the set they've never done before, like move a wall. He goes, "Whoa!" I think there has been so much tumult in his personal life, he's aware of little changes.

You had worked with him before "Two and a Half Men"?

We were only in two scenes in "Hot Shots," but we hung out together on the set. He was always an incredibly lovely, friendly guy, and that surprised me, considering he'd just gotten out of rehab. I expected this emotional shell of a human, but he's gregarious and incredibly professional, and surprisingly open, considering he'd been the subject of so many tabloid rumors.

What will happen as Jake, the "half" of the title, grows up? Will it become just "Three Men"?

According to Chuck Lorre [the show's creator], we have a natural eight-year life span. And then I thought, 'Okay, what if Jake goes to Pepperdine [University] and still lives at home?' See, I'm thinkin', I'm thinkin'.

What do you do for fun away from the set?

I play ultimate Frisbee, collect memorabilia from the Soviet space program and I am trying to date now. All of a sudden I have a lot of dates, but for a while it was just tumbleweeds blowing through town.

What can we expect to see on the show in the upcoming season?

The same crap. You're just going to see more of the same crap. I have written that out on the writers' board because I am so happy with the show, I don't want them to mess with it.

Two and a half men

Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBS

The Cryer Chronicles

Date of Birth: April 16, 1965

Hometown: New York

Family: Son Charlie, age 5; divorced from actress Sarah Trigger in 2004

Television: "The Famous Teddy Z" (1989), "Partners" (1995), "It's Good to Be King" (1997), "Getting Personal" (1998), "The Trouble With Normal" (2000), "Stripperella" (voice, 2003)

Movies: "No Small Affair" (1984), "Pretty in Pink" (1986), "Hot Shots!" (1991)