‘The Activist’ Changing From Competition Series to Documentary After Backlash

Usher, Julianne Jough, Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Paras Griffin/Getty Images; Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp

It’s back to the drawing board for the CBS reality series The Activist, which is now being retooled as a one-time documentary special following widespread backlash.

The show was originally conceived as a five-week reality competition series, where six activists representing three causes — health, education and environment — would compete in challenges to raise awareness about those issues. Portions of the show had already been filmed; however, according to Variety, this new version will be entirely new, with filming starting from scratch.

Backlash heated up last week after it was announced that Usher, Julianne Hough, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas would be hosting the series. Critics and social media users blasted the show for turning activism into a competitive format, noting how this could distract from the important issues.

Hough herself agreed with the criticism, posting a statement on Instagram in which she said, “there is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt” before adding, “I’m not qualified to act as judge.”

Following the public backlash, CBS and producers Global Citizen and Live Nation have announced a retooling of the format. The series, which was initially scheduled to premiere on October 22, will now become a “documentary special.” There is no word as of yet when the documentary will air.

“[I]t 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 statement read. “The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort.”

The statement continued: “…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.”

The Activist, TBA, CBS