CBS’ ‘The Activist’ Goes From Competition Show to Documentary After Harsh Blowback

Apparently, the road to reality TV hell is paved with good intentions.

CBS’ is retooling its progressive-minded reality series The Activist before it even airs. The five-week series that was poised to be a reality competition show is being creatively retooled as a docuseries. It is no longer scheduled to air as originally planned Oct. 22. A new date for what CBS, producers Global Citizen and Live Nation have dubbed in a joint statement Wednesday as a “documentary special.”

“[I]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,” CBS, Live Nation and Global Citizen said in a statement. (Read it in full, below.)

The move comes after massive social media and critical blowback to the series after it was announced earlier this month.

Even one of the show’s hosts, Dancing With the Stars veteran Julianne Hough, posted a statement agreeing with many of the show’s critics, noting “there is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt” and “I’m not qualified to act as judge.”

The series had six activists competing against each other to draw social media attention to various causes and are then were judged by celebrities Hough, Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

One environmental online campaign activist dubbed it “the worst idea for a TV show ever,” Forbes called it “performance activism personified,” and The Washington Post said it “sounds like the second circle of hell.”

The series has not been a big deal for the network. The Activist remains scheduled for a five-week run starting Oct. 22. The network also did not produce the series, but rather purchased the show wholesale from Global Citizen, Live Nation and Deviants Media.

Here’s the full statement:

“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.

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). 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.

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.

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