A few years ago, you may have heard that movie star Ryan Reynolds and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham A.F.C., a Welsh soccer team. Welcome to Wrexham, the FX docuseries showing their journey was recently released. Although the show is heartfelt at times, it often feels like a disingenuous publicity stunt.
Wrexham is one of the world’s oldest soccer teams, and decades ago they were able to compete in the top tiers of the English football pyramid. Since then, hard times have befallen the club (and the town), and the once-mighty club has sunk to the fifth tier of the British soccer league. Intrigued by the possibility of success, Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds teamed up to buy the club in November of 2020 and hired British TV writer Humphrey Ker as their executive director. The show documents Rob and Ryan’s first season of ownership, and right off the bat, you can see the influence of Sunderland ‘Til I Die, the Netflix docuseries that reportedly inspired Rob and Ryan. Just like Sunderland ‘Til I Die, the show focuses heavily on Wrexham’s staff and fan base instead of its players. However, Welcome to Wrexham’s connection to the town feels forced.
Whereas the filmmakers of Sunderland ‘Til I Die clearly cared about the struggling club, Rob and Ryan’s connection to Wrexham just feels like a publicity stunt. They watch games from their mansions in Los Angeles and crack jokes during management Zoom meetings, while the editors insert generic stories of fans throughout. The show can’t seem to give too much time to the fans, instead defaulting to comedy bits featuring Rob and Ryan, as if they thought showing anyone other than the celebrities would make the show less “accessible” to the masses. Unfortunately, the segments with Rob and Ryan aren’t just taking away attention from the true heart of the club, but are also some of the least funny things ever put on screen.
A documentary is meant to show reality, giving viewers a glimpse of how the subjects act and behave in real life. By this definition, Welcome to Wrexham isn’t a documentary, its fiction. Every single exchange with Rob and Ryan is so pitifully scripted that they don’t even seem fully committed to the bits. McElhenney is meant to seem like a thoughtful everyman, keeping Ryan in check, but instead he comes across as brash and irritating. He delivers his lines with such a lack of conviction that it almost feels as if he’s never acted before. Ryan Reynolds is slightly more charming naturally, but in every scene the two actors appear in, all you want is for them to stop cracking idiotic jokes and just care about the club for a minute. Speaking of idiotic jokes, each time one of Wrexham’s residents says a British term, a graphic pops up on screen showing the English, American, and Welsh translations, accompanied by classical music. These interludes are so unfunny they actually take away from the show, just like Rob and Ryan’s tortured running jokes.
Despite all this horrid writing, the occasional moment of genuineness peeks through when talking to fans and players. That being said, these moments are always quickly quelled by the forced nature of the show. In one instance, we’re shown the life of a fan, who cares for his two sons after his recent divorce and makes a living as a painter. Sure, it’s sweet for a minute, but the way the producers have him say everything is so fabricated that you can’t help but feel bad for him. Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds’ visible lack of care makes FX’s Welcome to Wrexham an unfunny slog. How vain someone has to be to think they can become a real-life Ted Lasso is beyond my comprehension, and the way they attempt to make the show more “American-friendly” removes all traces and passion and earnestness. When you reach the end of the finale, only one thought crosses your mind: at least they’re wasting their own money.