YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Welcome to Wrexham

FX on Hulu
Everyone’s heard of Ted Lasso. What makes me laugh, though, is that hardly anybody has heard of the show that is basically a real-life Ted Lasso—and almost as good!

Welcome to Wrexham is a docu-series that centers its focus on Wrexham A.F.C. (Wrexham Association Football Club), a soccer team that plays in Wrexham, Wales. Wrexham A.F.C. is the oldest soccer club in Wales, the third-oldest professional soccer team in the world and play in the world’s oldest international football stadium. And yet, with all this history, Wrexham is widely known, especially by its loyal fans, as the most lovable losers in soccer. Despite having some glory in the past, the new century brought Wrexham A.F.C. to the lowest point it had been in in its history, with a miserable financial outlook, a crumbling stadium and a team that was relegated out of professional soccer for the first time in its history.

But then, in 2020, a miracle happened to the team and town of Wrexham, Wales, when two Hollywood heavyweights, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, decided to buy the team. The first question you may ask is why. The second question you may ask is why, with an even more inquisitive tone. Why would a Canadian mega movie star and a Philadelphia sports-crazed television actor (McElhenney is really only known for starring in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) be interested in buying a losing Welsh football team that isn’t even playing in a professional league anymore? And how on earth will the town of Wrexham feel about it?

Well, that’s exactly what Welcome to Wrexham is about.

So I’m afraid I’ve just lost you, because you are thinking, “I don’t care about soccer, I don’t want to watch a documentary about a failing sports team.” HOLD ON. Ok, so it is about a failing sports team, but Welcome to Wrexham is SO MUCH MORE than that. Seriously…if you liked Ted Lasso (even if you didn’t care about sports), you will like Welcome to Wrexham. Why? Because they are both about heart, not about sport.

My first reaction when I saw the premise of this show was it was another shameless attempt at publicity for two actors. I mean, Ryan Reynolds really doesn’t need publicity, but the cynic in me saw the potential of McElhenney, an actor I had barely heard of, using his friendship with Reynolds to parlay it into a new path for publicity for himself.

Well, just as Ted Lasso cures cynicism in even the coldest heart, Welcome to Wrexham quickly dilutes any doubt of its purity in the first couple episodes and you realize that maybe, just maybe, Ryan and Rob have some good in them.

Don’t worry, I’m not a total idiot. I realize that buying a Welsh football team and selling a companion series to FX/Hulu to document it is a somewhat shameless attempt at publicity. But what makes it tolerable is how they address that head on and realistically and believably convince you of their good intentions and their real motivations. Sure, money is a big one (buying a team for little and then making it worth a lot means a big payday for them), but there are other factors. Reynolds, for his part, is a businessman almost more than he is an actor. He owns or is invested in many products and businesses, so it is clear that he would be someone looking for a challenge that could eventually turn a profit. And, as for McElhenney, you couldn’t find a more sports-obsessed man, who likely saw the pure joy in turning around a team from loser to winner.

So, yes, there is a lot about motivation and why two stars would get involved in a small team from Wales, but that’s not what makes Welcome to Wrexham so good. Where it becomes compelling television is in its embracing of the town, the team and the people of Wrexham, as the show makes them the star of the show.

Just as Ted Lasso begins as one thing (a goofy show about a fish out of water) and turns into something else (a sentimental show about friendship and teamwork), Welcome to Wrexham draws you in with its star power, but then reveals a truly heartwarming core of humanity, focusing away from the Hollywood glitz and spotlighting the regular people of the town and the players on the team, making them the stars, engaging us with their stories, investing us in their success.

So, please, if you are looking for something heartwarming, funny, warm and wonderful in the sea of dark shows that seem to be the most popular shows on TV—if you miss Ted Lasso—check out Welcome to Wrexham on FX on streaming on Hulu. There have been two seasons already, with the third returning on May 2, so you’ve got time to catch up. You may just fall in love. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.