Television director J. D. Lobue made a name for himself directing the sitcom "Soap," the pioneering primetime satire that was boycotted by the Moral Majority before it even debuted. But it's less well known that ... Read more »
Television director J. D. Lobue made a name for himself directing the sitcom "Soap," the pioneering primetime satire that was boycotted by the Moral Majority before it even debuted. But it's less well known that Lobue was on the cutting edge of music television history as well. His first break came as a director on an American institution that aficionados still wax poetic about: "Soul Train," the music and dance program that defined R&B during the 1970s.
That Lobue's first gig directing was on a music program wasn't entirely out of character. Before Lobue had ever picked up a camera, he was in the lineup of sixties pop-rock act The Gordian Knot. Born August 23, 1942 in Hammond, Louisiana, Lobue joined the band while getting his BA at the University of Mississippi and moved with them to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s. The band's self-titled 1968 debut was not a chart success, though it later became prized by fans of what was retroactively dubbed L.A.'s "sunshine pop" scene. After The Gordian Knot split, Lobue used his Hollywood industry connections to move into television work.
Between 1972 and1988, Lobue directed 60 episodes of "Soul Train" (Syndicated 1971-2006), after the show shifted production from Chicago to LA after its first season. In 1979, Lobue began directing prime-time sitcoms, starting with three episodes of "Stockard Channing in Just Friends" (CBS 1979), a star vehicle for the Broadway veteran. While the show only lasted 13 episodes, it dovetailed with Lobue long and profitable relationship with the groundbreaking "Soap" (ABC 1977 -1981). After serving as associate director to Jay Sandrich during the first season of the groundbreaking sitcom, Lobue took over as director on Season 2. "Soap" was the first network television show to air a "viewer discretion" disclaimer, but the controversy ended up being a career boost for everyone involved with the project. Lobue directed a total of 28 episodes between 1979 and 1981.
Over the following years Lobue had stints on a number of shaky and short-lived primetime projects, but the next association to bring him praise came in the form of the Golden Globe-nominated Madeline Kahn vehicle, "Oh Madeline" (ABC 1983-84). Kahn was a critic's favorite, and Lobue had 19 episodes under his belt before the series was cancelled. Lobue then threw his shoulder behind the doomed "Hail to the Chief"(ABC 1985), featuring Patty Duke as the first female American President. Although the series reunited the director with "Soap" creator Susan Harris, it only lasted seven episodes. He immediately followed it with five episodes of the successful Bob Newhart sitcom "Newhart" (CBS 1982-1990).
During this same period, and while wrapping up his "Soul Train" tenure, the director signed onto the Paul Reiser vehicle, "My Two Dads" (NBC 1987-1990), and had a healthy run on the successful sitcom "It's a Living" (ABC 1980-89), for which he directed 40 episodes. The popular show had a strong ensemble cast that included Crystal Bernard and cult comedy favorite Louise Lasser, and was a springboard for then-budding comedic actor Ann Jillian.
In 1989, Lobue directed 10 episodes of the oddball Wes Craven project "The People Next Door" (CBS 1989), which was yanked after five episodes aired. He rebounded in 1991 with a 49-episode run on "Herman's Head" (FOX 1991-94). In spite of its overlapping cast members with the popular FOX series "The Simpsons" (FOX 1989- ), the show's abstract premise -- a young man's emotions given human form inside his brain -- never gained a foothold with audiences and was canceled after three seasons. Lobue's next successful long-term collaboration, following a string of one-off episodes of various series, came in 1997 when he became one of the primary directors of the popular hippie-meets-yuppie romantic comedy "Dharma & Greg" (ABC 1997-2002). The show, which Lobue directed multiple episodes of throughout its run, captured the zeitgeist of a culture in transition, and solidified a career for comedian Jenna Elfman.