CBS competition series The Activist changes to documentary format after backlash
CBS' planned reality series The Activist — which was envisioned as a competition show featuring six individuals "working to bring meaningful change" to the realms of health, education, and the environment — is getting an overhaul after drawing widespread criticism.
The show will no longer be a competition series, and instead will move forward as a documentary special. In addition, it will no longer premiere Oct. 22.
"The Activist was designed to show a wide audience the passion, long hours, and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world, hopefully inspiring others to do the same," CBS and producing partners Global Citizen and Live Nation said in a joint statement Wednesday evening. "However, it has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort."
The statement continued: "As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced). It will showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in. Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show."
The reversal came less than a week after the show was announced during the CBS portion of the Television Critics Association summer press tour. The original incarnation of the program was to be hosted by Julianne Hough, Usher, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. It's unclear whether they will still be involved in the new version of The Activist; representatives for the three didn't immediately respond to EW's request for comment.
The statement from CBS, Global Citizen, and Live Nation concluded, "Activists and community leaders around the world work every day, often without fanfare, to advance protections for people, communities, and our planet. We hope that by showcasing their work we will inspire more people to become more involved in addressing the world's most pressing issues. We look forward to highlighting the mission and lives of each of these incredible people."
A representative for Global Citizen provided an additional statement to EW that said, "Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong. It is our responsibility to use this platform in the most effective way to realize change and elevate the incredible activists dedicating their lives to progress all around the world."
On Tuesday night, Hough posted a lengthy statement on her Instagram saying she was "deeply listening" following the backlash over The Activist.
"I heard you say there was hypocrisy in the show because at the root of activism is a fight against capitalism and the trauma that it causes so many people and that the show itself felt like a shiny capitalistic endeavor," she wrote. "I also heard you say that trying to value one cause over another felt like the Oppression Olympics and totally missed and disrespected the many activists who have been killed, assaulted and faced various abuses fighting for their causes."
She added, "And because of this, there is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt. I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge."