Dabney Coleman, Actor Audiences Loved to Hate, Is Dead at 92

Dabney Coleman, an award-winning television and movie actor best known for his over-the-top portrayals of garrulous, egomaniacal characters, died on Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 92.

His daughter Quincy Coleman confirmed the death in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday. No cause was cited.

Mr. Coleman was equally adept at comedy and drama, but he received his greatest acclaim for his comic work — notably in the 1980 movie “9 to 5,” in which he played a thoroughly despicable boss, and the 1983-84 NBC sitcom “Buffalo Bill,” in which he starred as the unscrupulous host of a television talk show in Buffalo.

At a time when antiheroic leads, with the outsize exception of Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker, were a rarity on television comedies, Mr. Coleman’s distinctly unlikable Bill Bittinger on “Buffalo Bill” was an exception. A profile of Mr. Coleman in Rolling Stone called Bill “a rapscallion for our times, a playfully wicked combination of G. Gordon Liddy and Groucho Marx.” (“He has to do something terrible,” Bill’s station manager said of him in one episode. “It’s in his blood.”)

Mr. Coleman’s manically acerbic performance was widely praised and gained him Emmy Award nominations as best actor in a comedy in 1983 and 1984. Reviewing “Buffalo Bill” in The New York Times, John J. O’Connor said Mr. Coleman “manages to bring an array of unexpected colors to his performance” and called him “the kind of gifted actor who always seems to be teetering on the verge of becoming a star.” But the ratings were disappointing, and “Buffalo Bill” ran for only 26 episodes.

Mr. Coleman with his co-star Geena Davis in a scene from the 1983-84 NBC sitcom “Buffalo Bill,” in which he played the unscrupulous host of a television talk show in Buffalo.Credit…Frank Connor/Stampede Productions, via Everett Collection

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