‘The Activist’ Switched From Reality Show to Documentary After Backlash

The Activist cast is made up of Usher Raymond, Julianne Hough, Priyanka Chopra. (Credit: Deposit Photos)

After criticism about its tone-deaf concept, CBS’ The Activist is getting revamped into a documentary special instead of a reality series pitting activists against each other.

Show producers Live Nation and Global Citizen posted a statement on Twitter Wednesday, offering an apology and explaining why they chose to switch up the series hosted by Usher, Julianne Hough, and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas.

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“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,” the statement read.

“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.”

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Originally, the show was greenlit as a competition made up of teams of public figures and activists who would battle head-to-head to promote their causes on social media and to secure funding for their projects.

When CBS announced in July The Activist would be part of its fall slate, the show made few headlines. But last week after the network sent out more details about the series, including the names of the hosts, the backlash was swift.

British actress and presenter Jameela Jamil tweeted last week, “Couldn’t they just give the money, it’s going to take to pay this UNBELIEVABLY expensive talent and make this show, directly to activist causes? Rather than turning activism into a game and then giving a fraction of the much needed money away in a ‘prize…?’ People are dying.”

Writer @ginamartinuk wrote on Twitter: “There’s a reason Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Julianne Hough and Usher are the ‘judges’ on ‘The Activist’ show. It’s because no real, self respecting activist, organiser or advocate would ever give their valuable time to a show like this. They couldn’t get real activists.”

@StephanieYeboah tweeted: “This is truly horrific, lol. A reality competition show on who can be the next Insta-activist? It’s performative at best, and kinda makes light of the hard work a lot of grassroots organizations do on the ground, on a daily basis. Gross.”

Earlier Wednesday, Hough posted a four-page statement on Instagram and said she “heard” what her followers were saying about the series.

“I’m going to continue to listen, unlearn, learn, and take the time to be fully present with everything that you have all shared because I don’t want to just react. I want to digest, understand and respond in a way that is authentic and aligned with the woman I am becoming,” the former Dancing with the Stars pro said in her statement.

CBS said in its July announcement, The Activist would premiere on Friday, Oct. 22 at 8:00 PM.