The fall of ‘The Activist’: How a show meant to go viral was brought down by the internet

Raechal Shewfelt·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment Thu, September 16, 2021, 8:29 PMIn this article:

Priyanka Chopra is the latest person involved with the planned reality competition show The Activist to respond to widespread criticism of its concept, starting with the idea that it pitted activists against each other.

“You were heard,” the actress, who was supposed to be a host and judge of the show, wrote on social media. “The show got it wrong, and I’m sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you. The intention was always to bring attention to the people behind the ideas and highlight the actions and impact of the causes they support tirelessly. I’m happy to know that in this new format, their stories will be the highlight, and I’m proud to collaborate with partners who have their ear to the ground and know when it’s time to hit pause and re-evaluate.

Her apology comes a day after Julianne Hough, who had been announced as a host, judge and producer on the CBS production, addressed the issue. Hough said that she was listening to comments that said the idea for the show — activists competing in a series of challenges to raise awareness for their respective issues — “was performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt tone-deaf, like Black Mirror, The Hunger Games, and that the hosts weren’t qualified to assess activism because we are celebrities and not activists.” And she agreed that she’s “not qualified to act as a judge.” She again noted her regret over wearing blackface as part of a 2013 Halloween costume.

While the CEO of producer Live Nation Entertainment, Michael Rapino, had argued last week that the show would “spread awareness about society’s most urgent issues while also giving every viewer the opportunity to be part of the solution—an unprecedented example of how entertainment can change the world,” the companies behind The Activist eventually relented.

Within hours of Hough’s comments, Live Nation, Global Citizen and CBS said in a joint statement that The Activist would be reformatted. Though it had been planned as a five-episode series premiering Oct. 22, it would now be a one-time documentary special that would air in primetime at a yet-to-be-determined date. 

“It will showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in,” the statement read. “Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show.”

Global Citizen’s statement was accompanied by an apology to “the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong.

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