After cohost Julianne Hough spoke out about the series — admitting it “missed the mark” — CBS changes it from a reality show to a documentary.
update at 6:30am PT on September 16, 2021
“The Activist,” CBS’ upcoming reality show pitting activists against each other until only on cause remains standing, will no longer be a competition show following heavy backlash online. It has already been filmed, but will be reedited to eliminate the eliminations.
“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 network and producers Live Nation and Global Citizen announced Wednesday. “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.”
“As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special,” the statement added. “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 we planned for the original show.”
Global Citizen released its own statement apologizing to “the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community” for the show — admitting, “We got it wrong.”
The change comes after Julianne Hough posted a lengthy statement regarding her involvement in the show and the social media backlash, admitting that the series “missed the mark.” Read her full statement below.
While the show was originally scheduled to debut October 22, it has been pushed to a later date.
A reality show contest pitting activists against each other to see which of their causes will be the last one standing is now a reality … and people aren’t exactly happy about it.
On Thursday, Deadline reported Usher, Priyanka Chopra and Julianne Hough agreed to be cohosts on the series “The Activist,” where they will each be paired with six champions of change to come up with new and exciting ideas in promoting health, education, and environment.
As with any competition program worth a lick — such as “Survivor” or “American Idol” — the CBS five-week streamer will pit contestants against each other in a series of head-to-head challenges.
“Activists go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input,” reported Deadline. “The three teams have one ultimate goal: to create impactful movements that amplify their message, drive action, and advance them to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. There, they will meet with world leaders in the hope of securing funding and awareness for their causes. The team that receives the largest commitment is celebrated as the overall winner at the finale, which will also feature musical performances by some of the world’s most passionate artists.”
Hugh Evans, CEO and co-founder of Global Citizen, which produces the show, said he hoped the series will “inspire real change” — while Jack Sussman, an EVP at CBS, said that by “combining philanthropy and entertainment,” the show is “a ground-breaking series poised to inspire viewers.”
When the Twitter account Film Updates posted about the series, however, all it inspired was backlash.
Twitter had a field day with the announcement, as the social media masses quickly questioned the concept.
“They’ve turned activism…. into a game show?” wrote one perplexed follower, as another shared, “Competition for donors is already cut throat. Why not make funders compete to see who can give more?”
“This is perverse,” chimed in a user. “Pitting activists against each other while exploiting their activism for rating and money is some fringe 70s dystopia s—.”
Others had more lighthearted takes, as a Twitter user shared, “If it weren’t for licensing rights issues, they could just air an episode of this show on Black Mirror with no accompanying comment whatsoever.”
And one posted a pic of a child crying with a gun and the caption, “me putting down the shelter animals bc my activist tweets didn’t get enough engagement.”
Keep reading for more hilarious reactions, below.