“The Activist” is making a last-minute format change, from a competition series to a one-off documentary special. The retool is in response to widespread criticism over a show that pits aspiring activists against each other in a reality-show format.
According to the initial CBS announcement, “The Activist” was described as “an unprecedented series featuring six activists from around the world working to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education, and the environment.”
However, noted The Hollywood Reporter, the show has been hit with relentless backlash over claims that the resulting show will be little more than “a competitive woke-off.”
On Tuesday, Julianne Hough — serving as co-host alongside Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas — issued a lengthy Instagram message to state that she’s heard the criticism and gets it.
On Wednesday, CBS responded to the backlash by announcing plans to adjust the format of the show, which was scheduled to premiere in just over a month.
“’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,” said the network in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
“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 (airdate 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 statement added.
“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,” the statement concluded.
Chopra Jonas also issued her own statement after CBS’ announcement, telling fans “you were heard” after they “came together to raise their voice about something.”
“The show got it wrong,” she wrote. “I’m sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you.”
“The intention was always to bring attention to the people behind the ideas and highlight the actions and impact of the causes they support tirelessly,” she continued. “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.”
“The Activist” was initially slated to debut on Oct. 22.