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Facing flak, US network turns game show ‘The Activist’ with PC into documentary

After becoming a target of online criticism, series ‘The Activist’, which stars Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas among many others is being reconfigured and will now become a one-time documentary special instead of a five-episode competition series.

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, reports variety.com.

The show, originally set to premiere as a series on October 22, had faced serious heat since Usher, Julianne Hough and Priyanka were announced as hosts late last week.

Social media users and opinion writers had laid into the competitive nature of a show meant to celebrate and encourage activism, among other concerns.

In a joint statement, network CBS and producing partners Global Citizen and Live Nation announced the format switch, saying: “‘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 added: “t 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.”

The joint statement concludes by saying that the 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.”

Global Citizen released its own separate statement that included an apology.

“Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community a” we got it wrong,” the philanthropic org said.

“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.”

The concept for ‘The Activist’ had been announced in May but, with no celebrity names attached, drew almost no notice at the time

The details about the show hadn’t changed when the hosts were announced last week, but this time, it got the spotlight with the competitive aspect provoking ire and accusations that the use of social media metrics in judging the winners amounted to a celebration of “click-tivism”.

The format for the series had six activists representing three causes — health, education and environment — completing challenges to raise awareness about those issues during the initial four episodes.

For the fifth and final episode, three of the six activists were to have been chosen (one representing each area) to go to the G20 summit in Rome at the end of October and meet with world leaders to personally press their causes.

Performances from well-known musicians also would have figured into the climactic episode.

The documentary version is expected to focus on the same activists but without the “challenges” or evaluations.

Representatives for the network and producing entities declined to address creative aspects of the show’s reconfiguration, indicating that practical matters of restarting production with a more straight-forward documentary concept would be addressed after the initial word gets out that critics of ‘The Activist’ have been heard.

Hough had already addressed the show’s growing legion of detractors, posting a four-part message to her Instagram account.

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