Is Welcome to Wrexham Worth Watching?

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Is Welcome to Wrexham Worth Watching?

A couple of years ago, it’s doubtful many US citizens would know where Wrexham was or what it was.

The town in Wales was fairly unknown on the world stage until recently. Their soccer team was even more unremarkable, especially in the US. Soccer here is all about MLS or the upcoming World Cup, with most fans’ knowledge of the English game extending to David Beckham and maybe Christian Pulisic’s team, Chelsea. Now, thanks to a Hollywood superstar, that is about to change.

Firstly, who are Wrexham FC? They are a Welsh soccer team but don’t play in the League of Wales. In the British Isles, soccer borders are somewhat blurred; Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham are all based in Wales but play in England. Berwick Rangers are based in England but play in Scotland, whilst Derry City are based in Northern Ireland but play in the Republic of Ireland. They’re fast and loose with who can play where across the Atlantic, which is how we get to watch Wrexham, a Welsh team, playing in England.

Make no mistake; this isn’t English soccer as you might know it. Wrexham are not in the top flight; they’re not even in the four divisions and 92 teams that make up the so-called EFL. They play in the National League, the fifth tier of English soccer. They’ve often bounced between the bottom two divisions of the EFL, but they dropped out in 2009 and have been in exile ever since. Recently, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have taken over, resulting in them becoming favorites for promotion back to the EFL in the latest Coral odds. With a combination of their investment and profile, Wrexham fans hope the club is on the way back.

Of course, to chart this rise to success, there’s a documentary, Welcome to Wrexham, which covers the club’s 2021/22 season, the superstars’ investment and some history about the area. Over the 18-episode series, Reynolds and McElhenney seek to revive fortunes and give viewers something to invest emotionally in. They do this through their natural humor but by trying to awaken viewers to the proud heritage not just of Wrexham but of Wales as well.

Does it land as intended? The short answer is no, not really. As CNN concludes, the series never quite makes up its mind about what it wants to be. Occasionally it is a vehicle for the duo’s humor and bypasses Wrexham altogether. There’s plenty about their investment and intentions early on, but the focus doesn’t shift to the soccer club until later. It means the viewer is often taken on a journey for an episode, only to find something completely different the next time they tune in. That’s awkward in a world of instant television, where binge-able series are the ones that hit the mark.

It isn’t a poor series, not by any stretch. Ryan Reynolds is always watchable, and the pair don’t patronize the club or its fans. There’s a genuine intent to keep the club’s heritage in focus and ensure the supporters remain onside, and for US viewers, it’s an interesting glimpse into fan culture in England (or Wales). Sadly, there are times when the spontaneity and excitement of soccer seem to have been diluted by scripted moments and forced interactions.

That said, there’s value here for US soccer fans, and the documentary series will act as a nice lead into the FIFA World Cup, where the US has been paired with Wales, and England, covering both of the Wrexham bases.