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Looks Like That Poorly Conceived Activist Reality Competition Series Is Gonna Be a Documentary Instead

"We got it wrong," says Global Citizen, who definitely got it wrong.

The Activist

Last week, I wrote about The Activist, the upcoming CBS reality competition series about, you guessed it from the title, activism. Hosted by Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough, the show was set to air on CBS on October 22nd.

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I’m not sure why Global Citizen (the organization producing the series) didn’t realize how tacky the premise sounded. Turning activism into a literal competition where celebrities, who could just donate to whatever causes the contestants had, sat back and acted as hosts sounded like the plot of a long-running dystopian book series that Hollywood got a hold of.

Did I mention the part about “online engagement” where an activist’s success was measured by OUR response to it?

I could already imagine the attempted emotional swell of reality TV music playing as Julianne “people will never forget my blackface from 2013” Hough gave some contrived speech about the world becoming a better place thanks to the hard work of the six contestants who were about to be pit against each other.

To Hough’s credit (not really) she calls herself out and agrees that she is not qualified to be a host.


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A post shared by Julianne Hough (@juleshough)

If you subscribe to the notion of “I ain’t readin’ all that” she basically gives a textbook response of “I see you and hear you and appreciate the critique and I’m learning and yes I’m still sorry about that awful Halloween costume from 2013.” She also flat out says that she knows she’s not qualified to be a judge, as she doesn’t consider herself to be an activist.


Why’d you take the job in the first place if-… nevermind, there’s bigger things to discuss here, because  this response from Hough comes with big news from the series: it’s not going to be a reality competition anymore.

According to Variety, the series will now be retooled as a one-time documentary special because the entire Internet said NO to the whole may the odds be ever in your favor vibe of the initial premise. “Although footage for the original incarnation of the series had already been shot, this version of The Activist will be entirely new, with filming expected to begin from scratch.”

What this means for the three celebrity hosts is unclear, but I’m guessing we’ll get footage of them looking into the camera, teary eyed, as they breathlessly talk about how inspirational these activists are.

Variety goes on with a joint statement from CBS, Global Citizen, and Live Nation (another producing partner).

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).”

The statement also reveals that the new format will showcase all the work these six particular activists put into promoting their causes and the impact it has on everyone. Each activist will also be given a cash grant for their organization.

According to the statement, that was planned for the original show, so I guess that means everyone was going to get some kind of award? However, the big prize (a trip to the G20 Summit in Italy) was the main point of competition? I will admit to being a bit unclear on this part, mostly because, at the time The Activist made the rounds, I was wholeheartedly in my feelings about a REALITY COMPETITION SHOW FOR ACTIVISM.

Apparently, this show got announced back in May?! At least that’s what Variety says. However, with the announcement of the three celebrity hosts combined with the reality competition aspect, it got the kind of attention you’d, well, expect it to get.

Global Citizen went on to make a separate statement apologizing for the misstep.

“Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize 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.”

So I guess… stay tuned for the documentary special? Assuming you even want to invest your time into this after the colossal misfire.

(image: CBS Television Distribution)

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Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)

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