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CBS reality series 'The Activist' to be 'reimagined' as documentary after taking heat for pitting activists against each other in 'dystopian' competition

Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Producers of a new reality TV show that planned to set activists against each other to fight for prize money have decided to "reimagine" the competition series as a documentary following intense backlash on social media.

Critics immediately denounced "The Activist," which was set to air on CBS starting Oct. 22, after the show's format was announced last week, slamming the series as a "dystopian" misrepresentation of the real goals and values of activism.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, CBS and production partners Global Citizen and Live Nation apologized to critics for the show's ill-advised messaging.

"Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong," said Global Citizen, an international advocacy organization, in a preview to the joint statement.

Instead of airing a five-week series featuring six activists going head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes as originally planned, producers said the project will be converted into a documentary special showcasing the "tireless work" of the six activists without any competitive element.

"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," read the joint statement. "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 continued. "It 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."

It was not immediately clear what role the celebrity judges — Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough — would play in the new project.

Hough, for one, issued a public apology amid the social media outrage, which she characterized as a "powerful demonstration of real-time activism."

"Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind," the celebrity said in an Instagram post.

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