Yes, it is sort of like “Ted Lasso.” Except in the docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham,” the focus on the newbie football club coach pivots to focus on the Hollywood stars – “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Mythic Quest” creator and star Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds – as they invest millions of dollars and become the joint owners of the Wrexham Dragons, the world’s third oldest professional association football team.
The Dragons, the small Welsh town where they’re based and the famous friends are facing challenges from the moment McElhenney conceives the idea of buying a football team and asks his social media pal Reynolds to join him. Formed in 1864, the Dragons play in the National League, the bottom tier of the English football leagues, and their loyal but oft-disappointed local supporters are losing hope they will ever be able to put together another season that will see them earn a promotion to a league above them.
McElhenney and Reynolds, meanwhile, despite their many TV, movie, and entrepreneurial successes, are recent football converts, and they’ve wisely chosen a consigliere for their venture. “Welcome to Wrexham” introduces viewers to Humphrey Ker, a British actor, “Mythic Quest” writer, and football fan drafted to help the new owners learn the game and the culture surrounding it. He’s appointed Wrexham’s executive director for his efforts.
And yes, for those of us who are also newbies to the game of British football (it’s a huge no-no to refer to it as soccer, even though that’s probably how many of us think of it), the game can seem complicated. Particularly the league structure, with its promotions and relegations system, which runs very much counter to the way American professional sports teams work. Turns out, there’s some beauty in that, though. In this ranked system, any team in any league has the opportunity to move up and down through the leagues. Does it happen often that a National League team, like Wrexham or Dover Athletic (a team that won just two games last season) is promoted and makes it to the Premier League, the very top of the English football leagues? No. In fact, so far, no team from the National League has yet made it to the Premiere League.
But McElhenney and Reynolds have sincerely pondered why it couldn’t happen, and their question is often met with skepticism about the likeliness of the feat.
But maybe it’s the American attitude towards sports and love of a good underdog story that makes their earnestness infectious. We’re also introduced to the players, local business people, fans, and volunteers who have helped keep the team running throughout years of unstable financial standings and past owners who failed to deliver any of the promised upkeep and support McElhenney and Reynolds have already implemented.
There’s no pretense that the two celebrities don’t have very practical purposes behind documenting their journey with the Dragons via “Welcome to Wrexham.” All the upgrades to the pitch (the playing field) and the stadium, plus the signing of the fresh player and coaching talent needed to make those promotion dreams a reality don’t come cheaply. Cute TikTok videos, tweet promos, and the series’ peek at the actors’ easy rapport and similar senses of humor (though they had never met in person until well after buying the team together) are key means of boosting ticket and merchandise sales and paying for the ever-increasing budget needs.
“Welcome to Wrexham” is a story told by two Hollywood talents who know the value of a great narrative and have the know-how to tell it for maximum effect. This non-football fan was so drawn by the story of Wrexham the team, the town, and the owners that what began as a quick search for info on the team’s current performance turned into a deep dive down a Dragons rabbit hole. And no specifics – Season 1 of the docuseries was filmed during Wrexham’s last season – but things are definitely looking up.
It’s not yet always sunny in Wrexham. But like Ted Lasso’s famous yellow sign urges, ya gotta believe.
“Welcome to Wrexham” premieres August 24 on FX and is streaming on Hulu the next day.