Welcome to Wrexham is a Collection of Highs and Lows
This Isn’t Their Field of Expertise.
Welcome to Wrexham Season One Review
After 18 episodes over two months, Welcome to Wrexham wrapped up its first season this week on FX and Hulu. The series, which chronicled the first season after Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchased the low-division Welsh soccer club Wrexham AFC, had a notably large gap between its best and worst qualities.
On the one hand, Welcome to Wrexham represented a fascinating fish-out-of-water premise, with two celebrities completely lacking in any experience with soccer, Wales, sports management, or each other were thrown deep into a situation that required all of the above. It was likely meant as a Ted Lasso-like story, of funny Americans (two of them, this time) colliding with English football. Jason Sudeikis even showed up in a late episode of Welcome to Wrexham, along with Will Ferrell, although neither of them thought to do anything funny.
Both Reynolds and McElhenney are strong on-camera presences, and the show found an especially intriguing dynamic in McElhenney contrasting the fandom cultures of his native Philadelphia and of association football. One episode even had McElhenney in Philly, meeting with Eagles coach Nick Sirianni and owner Jeffrey Lurie for some sports leadership advice. That episode even set off some grumbling on local sports talk radio, since Lurie talked more to McElhenney than he typically does to the local media.
The show also did a good job depicting the actual soccer matches, with the show also having the great fortune of the climactic game being wildly dramatic with tons of lead changes. And the show also expertly explained soccer concepts, from the promotion/relegation system to the different simultaneous competitions, to the soccer neophytes who may be watching.
As for the negative? The show didn’t really get beyond cliche when telling the story of Wrexham supporters. They’re a blue-collar, struggling town in which fans get solace from their local team, which has gotten them through tough times, and fandom has often been passed down through the generations.
That’s undoubtedly true, but it’s also true of hundreds and hundreds of other places, and the show did a poor job of showing what makes Wrexham unique. The show also failed to make memorable “characters” out of any of the players, coaches, or team employees.
Also, one gets the sense that the project was sort of compromised, since the two stars are also executive producers- a problem that’s not exactly rare, these days, for sports documentaries. If, for instance, the fans had been in open revolt against a couple of out-of-the-country dilettante Hollywood stars, could we trust the stars to tell that story in an impartial way? I can’t imagine it went over well that the new owners of the team, between their schedules with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mythic Quest, and the upcoming third Deadpool, likely only have time for a couple of trips to Wales each year.
And finally, the pacing of the show was somewhat odd. An 18-episode season probably wasn’t necessary, and the series could have jettisoned the episode that was almost entirely comedy bits with the two actors. The pace of release of the episodes was also somewhat strange: There were two a week for the early part of the season, followed by four at a time on October 5 and three on October 12.
Welcome to Wrexham will be back for another season, and I plan on watching and rooting for AFC Wrexham to “go up” to the English Football League. But I hope the second season trims the fat a bit.