Reality AF: 5 Reasons Why the Unique Welcome to Wrexham Has Been a Winner

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Reality AF: 5 Reasons Why the Unique <i>Welcome to Wrexham</i> Has Been a Winner

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Reality AF, where each week Terry Terrones checks in on the state of reality TV.


There’s absolutely no reason for you to care about a minor league soccer club in Wales. As a wise woman once said, ain’t nobody got time for that. Most Americans don’t even know where Wales is, let alone know that it’s its own country roughly the size of New Jersey. Too far away, sorry.

Most sports fans from the United States also have more pressing domestic interests than following the equivalent of a Single-A baseball team in a foreign country. America is dominated by the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NHL. Soccer? Puh-lease! To be sure, most of us know the rules—kick the ball, don’t use your hands, flop for a penalty on occasion, put the ball in the goal—but most gave that up after elementary school.

So if you were to tell me on August 23, 2022 that I’d have a rooting interest and feel passionate for a soccer club in a town I’ve never heard of that contains roughly HALF the population of Billings, Montana, I’d have said you were nuts. Then Welcome to Wrexham premiered on August 24, and like millions of others, I’m hypnotized. Damn you Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

At first glance, you’d think I was tailor made to watch this show. I was born in England and I love soccer (or football as most of my family call it), as my Liverpudlian grandfather helped ignite my passion for the sport as a kid. He’d buy me soccer-themed toys, watch games with me, replace ball after ball when I’d either lose them or they’d go flat, and never seemed to mind that I rooted for Liverpool FC instead of his beloved Everton FC. Soccer/football is in my DNA.

Yet Welcome to Wrexham wasn’t a show I planned on watching. Like most, I thought it looked to be a real-life version of Ted Lasso, but with Deadpool and the guy from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Meh, I’ve seen this show before. Or so I thought. While the series certainly has some of the feel-good charm of the Jason Sudeikis-led sports comedy/drama, Welcome to Wrexham is what sports writer and pop culture guru Bill Simmons would call a “one of one.” It’s a unicorn because there’s nothing else quite like it.

Welcome to Wrexham is an amalgamation of several different types of programs that seemingly have nothing in common. It’s part Hard Knocks, part 60 Minutes, and part Below Deck with a heavy sprinkling of sarcastic, quick-witted humor. That’s one hell of an odd recipe for a docuseries, but it works for several reasons.

It’s about sports (sort of)

Sports unites people. When I go to a Denver Broncos game like I did earlier this season, I suddenly have 75,000 new best friends. We’re packing a stadium to root for OUR guys. Everyone screams and hollers for three hours, and goes through an emotional roller coaster because we’ve been doing it all our lives and it’s a cathartic experience. Sports connect you to family members who taught us who to root for, friends who love the same things we love, and strangers who we share the experience with. A sporting event is the only place I’ve ever high-fived a stranger.

Being a sports fan also allows you to relate to others. Every fanatic knows the heartache of rooting for a team that’s been terrible for years because we’ve all gone through it. So seeing Wrexham fans so desperate for any glimmer of hope after years of frustration is immensely relatable.

It’s about celebrity (kind of)

Getting an inside look at the life of a celebrity has always been something of a public fascination. What’s life like when you’re rich and famous? Turns out US Weekly had it right, stars really are just like us. Mostly. A hefty bank account and people wanting to take pictures with you aside, Welcome to Wrexham has done something it probably never intended to do: humanize celebrities.

Here, Rob McElhenney reminds me of so many of my friends. He’s a sports nut who roots passionately for his home teams. Sure he’s on a hit TV show, but when it comes right down to it he’s just a doting dad who loves sports. Ryan Reynolds is who I always hoped he’d be: a wisecracking jokester who has an appreciation for good things. Seeing his reaction to Wrexham fans is powerful because he literally feels their passion. Watching two actors who I’ve seen onscreen for years react just like my neighbor would is a reminder that no matter how famous or rich someone is, they’re just a person like everyone else.

It’s funny (frequently)

When Ryan and Rob take over Wrexham FC, they promise to laugh at themselves but never the situation. They make good on that promise. The pair are frequently self-deprecating, and much like Wrexham fans and the viewing audience, a bit dubious as to why they started this adventure in the first place. Watching two millionaires (Is Ryan Reynolds a billionaire yet?) freely mock themselves and each other is not only funny, but makes you want to root for them in what may be one of Hollywood’s strangest sports stories.

It’s educational (sometimes)

In Episode 7, titled “Wide World of Wales,” Rob and Ryan do a spoof of Wide World of Sports with tons of facts about the country along with plenty of self-aware winks to the camera. You’ll learn so much about the 1839-1843 Rebecca Riots that you’re sure to be a hit at cocktail parties. The episode contains Welsh cooking and language lessons as well.

Episode 10, titled “Hooligans” is less light-hearted and deals with the ugliness of football hooliganism and its terrible history. Like all sports, soccer has a dark side, and this series doesn’t gloss over that fact. Soccer hooligans make the drunks at American sporting events look like a welcoming committee.

It’s about community (mostly)

What makes Welcome to Wrexham truly addictive are the stories of the people who live in this tiny Welsh town. Because it’s dealing with changes in its economy, has a working class feel, and has a community striving for something better, Wrexham feels like it could be Anytown, USA. Stories that focus on local fans both young and old, small business owners impacted by hardship, fans who are disabled getting representation in the organization and increased accessibility, and young players looking to keep their dreams of playing professionally alive resonate whether you care about sports or not.

In 2009, my brother and I attended our first in-person Liverpool FC game at Anfield Stadium. LFC played Tottenham Hotspur, and we won 3-1. I remember everything about the game: where we were sitting, my favorite player (Steven Gerrard) almost scoring a goal, and the smell of the pitch. But most memorable were the fans who made a structure built in 1892 come alive.

The packed crowd was singing and chanting throughout the entire game, and it was a religious experience. It was like being in a church with 53,394 of your closest friends. I’ve been to countless sporting events in the United States, both college and pro, and I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was an enormous gathering of humanity joined in passion, happiness, and love. That day at Anfield was magical, and that’s what I get a taste of every time I watch Welcome to Wrexham. And it’s a feeling most viewers seem to be experiencing as well.

Welcome to Wrexham is available to stream on Hulu.

Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot, and aspiring hand model. When he’s not rooting for Liverpool FC and Wrexham AFC, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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