CBS Scraps The Activist's Format After Backlash, Turns Upcoming Competition Series Into Documentary Special

The Activist will no longer unfold as planned on CBS, after the network and the show’s producers reacted to uproar about the series’ format and choice of hosts,TVLine has confirmed.

The Activist was conceived as a five-episode series in which six activists from around the world would work, as its official logline states, “to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment.” In September, Priyanka Chopra Jones (Quantico), Julianne Hough (Dancing With the Stars) and singer Usher were announced as hosts. It was scheduled to premiere on Friday, Oct. 22.

But the show’s competitive nature, which seemed in conflict given the altruism associated with activism, drew quickly increasing ire on social media. CBS and Global Citizen and Live Nation, which produce the series, issued a statement Wednesday announcing that they are abandoning the footage that was already shot and will start over, with the end result being a one-time documentary special to air on a to-be-announced date. Our sister site Variety first reported the change.

In a joint statement, CBS and producing partners Global Citizen and Live Nation announced the format switch, saying: “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. 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.”

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The new format will “showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in,” per the statement, with each activist receiving a cash grant for the organization of their choice.

The statement continues: “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.”

Global Citizen also issued its own statement, saying: “Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong.”

On Tuesday, Hough addressed the show’s mounting criticism in an Instagram post, acknowledging that some felt the show had an inherent “hypocrisy” and understanding that those who’d just learned she wore blackface for Halloween in 2013 saw her involvement as adding “insult to injury.” She went on to say that she’d shared the concerns she’d heard with the show’s powers that be, and “I’m still listening” to those who thought The Activist was a bad idea.

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