A series that was set to pit activists against each other in pursuit of funding for their causes will instead be a documentary after social media backlash forced the show’s creators to admit that they “got it wrong.”
Initially pitched as the first show of its kind, The Activist was set to premiere on Oct. 22, with celebrities Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough named as judges.
“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 and production partners Live Nation and Global Citizen said in a joint statement.
The initial concept was a five-week reality show that would chronicle six activists facing off in challenges. Their success would be measured in metrics including performance on social media.
The format was immediately met with criticism for both the idea and the judges attached. Cristina Jiménez, cofounder of United We Dream, a youth-led advocacy group for immigrant children, described the show as a “mockery” of the work activists do.
“This is sickening. Are we in the hunger games? Individuals on this panel are questionable. Lol Priyanka Chopra supporting activism?” wrote one person online.
As first reported in Variety, the show will now be a primetime documentary special highlighting the work of six activists and their causes, and all the activists will receive a cash grant.
“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,” said the joint statement.
In a second statement, Global Citizen apologized for missing the mark.
“Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong,” the statement said.
The international organization, best known for some of its star-studded fundraising festivals, acknowledged that it had a “responsibility” to use its platform in a more meaningful and effective way.
A representative from Global Citizen didn’t clarify what role the three celebrity judges would now play in this reformatted version of the series. The new air date is to be announced later on.
In some spaces, the decision has been celebrated.
Still, others stand by the initial belief that this show is a very bad idea.
BuzzFeed News contacted representatives for Usher, Chopra Jonas, and Hough for this story.