On second thought, maybe a reality competition show pitting activists against one another to see whose cause was more worthy wasn't a great idea after all.
Following an entirely proportionate and completely reasonable amount of public backlash, CBS has decided to retool their proposed celebrity-hosted reality competition show, The Activist, as a docuseries instead. Last week, Deadline reported that the network was currently working on a show co-hosted by Priyanka Chopra, Julianne Hough and Usher that would see six activists working with "three high-profile public figures" competing to "bring meaningful change to one of three vitally important world causes: health, education and environment."
According to the brief (or a scrapped Black Mirror script found on the cutting room floor, depending on who you choose to believe), the show would see "activists go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics and hosts' input," with the ultimate goal of making it to the G20 summit in Rome, Italy where they can appeal to global leaders for funding and help spread further awareness.
Perhaps realizing that they had unwittingly created The Hunger Games of virtue signaling, CBS has since put out a statement saying they will be restructuring the show into a prime-time documentary special. "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," the statement reads. "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."
Global Citizen, the actual activist organization that had partnered with the show, gave a more straightforward mea culpa, saying in their own statement, "Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts and the larger activist community — we got it wrong."
Considering that the show was already slated to premiere on Paramount+ later this October, it's safe to say that it had already been filmed and edited, which means that for this new documentary they'll like have to reshoot the whole thing. It's unclear if they will invite back the same contestants and celebrity hosts for this new show, but even that's not without its own problems.
Part of the public backlash to the show was its questionable choice in celebrity hosts. Specifically, Hough was called out for wearing Blackface as a part of a Halloween costume in 2013. She has apologized on multiple occasions for the incident and even addressed the backlash to the show in a lengthy Instagram post.
"I was really excited to be a part of something that highlights and is centered around sharing activists' work on a larger platform" Hough writes, admitting that "trying to value one cause over another felt like the Oppression Olympics and totally missed and disrespected the many activist who have been killed, assaulted and faced various abuses fighting for their causes."
Chopra also posted a statement to Instagram, similarly reading the room. "I have been moved by the power of your voices over the past week. At its core, Activism is fuelled [sic] by cause and effect, and when people come together to raise their voice about something, there is always an effect. You were heard," Chopra writes. "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."
It remains to be seen whether or not reshooting the show as a documentary will end up salvaging the project. The fact that a show like this was able to not only get greenlit, but produced and make it almost to air doesn't bode all too well.
Photos via Getty/ Steve Granitz & Jason Merritt