Just days after announcing The Activist, CBS and producers are changing the show from a reality competition series to a documentary. The show was announced earlier this year, but it only gained attention after Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough were introduced as the judges last week. The Activist was quickly bashed for trivializing activism as a game, and even Hough spoke out against it, agreeing that the judging aspect "missed the mark."
The competition version of The Activist was already filmed, but Variety reported Wednesday that the entire thing has been scrapped. Instead, CBS and producers Global Citizen and Live Nation will produce a documentary from the ground-up. The three companies said the original show 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," but 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 read.
The documentary special will air in primetime, but no premiere date was announced. It will "showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in," the three companies said. "Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show."
"Activists and community leaders around the world work every day, often without fanfare, to advance protections for people, communities, and our planet," the statement continued. "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."
Global Citizen, an advocacy group aiming to end extreme poverty, issued its own apology for the ill-advised project. "We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community - we got it wrong," the organization said. "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."
The Activist was originally announced in May, but it did not get attention until Sept. 9, when CBS announced the celebrity judges involved. The series was planned to run five episodes, with the first featuring six activists competing in challenges to raise awareness for health, education and environmental causes. In the fifth episode, three of the activists who won the "challenges" would go to the G20 summit in Rome in October. The names of the activists competing were never revealed, but sources told Variety they were all well-known activists, not unknowns.
Following the public outcry, Hough and Chopra Jonas both admitted that the original format of the show was wrong. "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," Hough wrote in part. In her statement, Chopra Jonas wrote that the show "got it wrong," and she apologized for disappointing her fans. "I'm happy to know that in this new format, their stories will be the highlight, and I'm proud to collaborate with partners who have their ear to the ground and know when it's time to hit pause and re-evaluate," she wrote.