The Activist changes format from competition series to documentary special amid criticism

·3-min read
Priyanka Chopra, Usher and Julianne Hough were criticised for hosting competition show for activists (Getty Images)
Priyanka Chopra, Usher and Julianne Hough were criticised for hosting competition show for activists (Getty Images)

CBS has announced that The Activist will now air as a documentary special instead of a competition series.

The announcement comes after the series, which is hosted by Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Usher, and Julianne Hough, faced heavy criticism over the past week.

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,” producers CBS, Global Citizen, and Live Nation said in a statement on Wednesday (15 September).

“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,” they said.

“The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort.”

The five-week reality series was set to feature six activists working together with Hough, Chopra, and Usher to bring meaningful change to one of three causes: environment, education, and health.

The description of the show provoked a backlash on social media, however.

“As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced),” the statement read. “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 organisation of their choice, as was planned for the original show.”

Best-selling author Trung Lê Capecchi-Nguyễn previously described the premise of the show as “gross and cynical”.

He wrote on Twitter: “This premise is so gross and cynical — they’ve tethered their viewer engagement metrics together with Who Cares the Most at its foundation. I feel sick.”

Jameela Jamil wrote: “Couldn’t they just give the money it’s going to take to pay this unbelievably expensive talent and make this show, directly to activist causes? Rather than turning activism into a game and then giving a fraction of the much-needed money away in a ‘prize…?’ People are dying.”

In a separate statement to The Independent, Global Citizen apologised to “the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community” for getting it “wrong”.

The statement read: “Global activism centres on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologise to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong.”

“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.”

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