“Welcome to Wrexham” is maybe the closest that a sports documentary has come to a chicken and egg question. Does the FX series exist because Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney took a flyer on buying Wrexham FC, a downtrodden Welsh soccer squad? Or was the possibility of “Welcome to Wrexham” a main reason for the purchase in the first place?
The fact that both answers seem plausible is never all that far from the show itself. McElhenney and Reynolds talk in early interviews about their elaborate pandemic purchase, a gambit made between social media buddies whose first in-person meeting is captured by these documentary cameras. They’re the marquee attraction in the charming opening episode, which gets as close to off-the-cuff and unguarded as press-savvy comedy stars get.
Before long, though, the pair have to embrace the fact that they’re mixing an entrepreneurial endeavor with some real-life human emotion hanging in the balance. Though “Welcome to Wrexham” never strays too far from familiar behind-the-scenes documentary rhythms, it’s documenting an elaborate experiment. Wrexham, a side stuck in the lowest rung on the UK soccer ladder, is the kind of team that could welcome a shakeup. At the same time, Reynolds and McElhenney see the club as a test case for whether an influx of funding and a jolt to a fanbase can do more harm than good. In the pyramid of UK football, their end goal isn’t necessarily to be the best team, but merely get the chance to play against better ones.
The parts of “Welcome to Wrexham” that stick in Wales are a pretty effective portrait of a town, made in the traditional community portrait mode. Cameras follow Wrexham players into their private lives, catching them in semi-candid moments with family members or home improvement projects. Those are fitted in between everyday glimpses of their surroundings, a once-booming manufacturing town that has seen a gradual decline in production, both on the pitch and in local factory work. “Welcome to Wrexham” keeps an overall spirit of optimism, though, as each look back at the problems of the recent past give way to the prospect that this wild card venture could be the rising tide that lifts all of the area’s boats.
And that look at Wrexham extends out past the roster. Tiny glimpses into the grounds crew’s duties dovetail nicely with input from local pub owners to team volunteers to lifelong die-hard fans. (In the UK, they’re “supporters,” something that the occasional cheeky on-screen “translation” graphics could point out.) They don’t last long enough to get a particularly full grip on any one person, but many of them make enough of an impression that they register in crowd shots episodes later.
The opening episode of the series drafts off of the unpredictability that Reynolds and McElhenney’s gambit brings to the team and the city as a whole. Them interacting directly with supporters and existing team management, even through Zoom, gives a bit of fish-out-of-water energy to the process.
But by the time the sale is finalized, the pair gets relegated to reacting from afar. It’s not that they’re not involved — there are plenty of sequences showing them drumming up publicity in different venues or McElhenney streaming matches from the other side of the world. There are just enough logistical obstacles to keep these seesaw halves of “Welcome to Wrexham” from fully meshing.
With Rob in Los Angeles in the “Always Sunny” writers room and Ryan at various undisclosed locations via FaceTime, one figure that emerges is Humphrey Ker. A writer on “Mythic Quest” and a central cast member on NBC’s best new show, Ker becomes the unofficial envoy/resident British football whisperer for the new owners.
He’s the vector for explaining fan interest in certain player acquisitions, conveying certain operating costs, and helping a pair of high-profile soccer neophytes appreciate the subtler aspects of this project. He also does as much as anyone can in this series to shake up its calculated nature. Any time he draws McElhenney and Reynolds’ plans away from neat sports branding opportunity and closer to reality, everyone involved is better for it.
“Welcome to Wrexham” runs into a challenge that any season-long sports doc has to contend with, in one way or another. Outside of some clearly defined, make-or-break spots on a timeline, it’s hard for some of these matches to stick out as something other than parts of a months-long churn. The game footage itself hovers between the kind of glossy promotional kick tailor-made for an Instagram Reel and the reality of playing in a less-glamorous UK football division. Adding in some cell phone camera footage from the stands gives an added fan’s-eye view that similar docs rarely make room for.
As much as portions of the show feel like glowing portraits, “Welcome to Wrexham” does gradually settle into acknowledging what everyone else slowly realizes. The Wrexham club (enterprising Googlers can confirm) do not become a world-beating sensation overnight. Their transformation comes with a certain amount of growing pains, one that the show does its best to adjust to. Overall, “Welcome to Wrexham” begins as a transatlantic hype video and continues as something that’s more resistant to instant gratification.
In that way, it’s on the verge of some bigger insights into the nature of ownership and fandom and how the relationship between those two changes sports on a fundamental level. The majority of the feedback from the people of Wrexham is shown to be positive, but not everyone is won over from the start. Similarly, the show benefits from early good will but has to contend with the expectations that come after. The foundation is there for “Welcome to Wrexham” to succeed. Like the team it’s chronicling, it just has to figure out its identity first.
“Welcome to Wrexham” premieres Wednesday, August 24 at 10 p.m. ET on FX. New episodes air weekly and will be available to stream the following day on Hulu.
10 things you probably didn’t know about Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds has been acting for decades and even though he’s been in the public eye for quite some time, there’s a lot you may not know about the “Deadpool” actor.
Here are some interesting things you never knew about Ryan Reynolds.
He said filming “Green Lantern” helped him get over his fear of flying.
Reynolds’ fear of flying stemmed from a bad skydiving experience when he was a teenager, where his first pack didn’t deploy and sent him free-falling through the air.
Years later, he spoke about getting over that fear by filming 2011’s “Green Lantern.”
“I have problems with airplanes,” Reynolds told Ann Curry on “The Today Show” in 2011. “On the film, we were up on high-wires flying all the time, all over the place … It was really interesting and really terrifying at first.”
Ultimately, Reynolds said the thought of his younger nephews and nieces helped him get past his fear.
“I don’t mean to make it sound too altruistic, but my nieces and nephews were just so excited about this movie and I kept thinking about them getting to come see this film,” said Reynolds. “You kind of get over all that crap… After the 17th, 18th time of doing it, you say, ‘Hey, this is actually a little bit of fun.'”
He met his wife Blake Lively on the set of “Green Lantern.”
Despite Reynolds’ public displeasure at the film “Green Lantern,” it turns out starring in the superhero movie wasn’t all bad.
After all, he met his future wife, Blake Lively, while filming it.
Lively played Reynolds’ love interest, Carol Ferris. According to Lively, the two started dating in 2011 a year after working together and becoming good friends. They got married in 2012 and now have three children.
Reynolds once failed drama class.
Per Vulture, Reynolds once failed his high-school drama course. His pal Hugh Jackman poked fun at him for it in 2016 when Reynolds received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Alanis Morissette wrote a song about him.
Before his marriage to Blake Lively, Reynolds dated singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette. The two eventually got engaged, but in 2007, the couple called it quits.
In 2008, Alanis revealed her song “Torch” was written post-breakup about Reynolds.
“It was cathartic,” Morisette told Access Online. “Someone said very wisely to me the other day that catharsis doesn’t mean healing necessarily and I thought, ‘Damn! It’s true.'”
Reynolds has wanted to play Kid Flash for years.
He’s already played a few high-flying characters on screen, but Reynolds has his sights on another superhero: Kid Flash.
The actor says he wanted to play the Wally West version of the hero, Kid Flash. He’s reportedly almost played the character twice, but it’s fallen through both times.
He said he turned down the role of Xander Harris on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
The now-famous vampire-slaying show could have had Reynolds in the role of nerdy pal Xander Harris.
But Reynolds said he turned down the role because he didn’t want to play a high schooler.
“I love that show and I loved Joss Whedon, the creator of the show, but my biggest concern was that I didn’t want to play a guy in high school,” Reynolds told The Star. “I had just come out of high school and it was f—ing awful.”
He was once People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”
People magazine named Reynolds the “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2010. Little did he know that in 2016, People would also name him the “Sexiest Dad Alive.”
Reynolds once gained 25 pounds for a movie.
Reynolds told Men’s Fitness magazine that he gained 25 pounds of muscle for “Blade Trinity.”
He said he was on a strict 3,200-calorie daily diet and performed six-day-a-week workouts for three months.
The “Deadpool” comics mention Ryan Reynolds by name.
In 2004’s “Cable & Deadpool” No. 2, Deadpool says he looks like Ryan Reynolds crossed with shar-pei. The comic spelled Reynolds as “Renolds.”
Reynolds told Latino Review he was aware of the comic reference in 2009.
“I remember reading one of the ‘Deadpool’ comic books, and somebody asked Deadpool what he looks like,” said Reynolds. “And I was like, I really, really wanna play this guy at some point. I thought it was pretty cool. It’s a guy that knows he’s in a comic book. How hard is it to shoot that properly? That’s not something they put in Wolverine nor would it belong in that universe.”
But it probably wasn’t the initial inspiration for Reynolds in the role.
Two months before the comic was released, producer and screenwriter David S. Goyer told IGN he wanted to work with Reynolds on something after “Blade: Trinity.” “Deadpool” was one of the possible ideas they tossed around.
Reynolds once appeared in the TV movie “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
Reynolds acted in the 1996 “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” TV movie that served as a pilot of sorts for the later TV series.
He played Seth, Sabrina’s crush at the time who wasn’t as decent as she hoped he’d be.
Reynolds and Melissa Joan Hart also dated for a brief period of time that same year.