Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.
Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.
This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.
Today, I will be looking at the series Welcome to Wrexham
Released in 2022
Distribution (UK) Disney+
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney, Humphrey Ker, Wrexham A.F.C.
Synopsis In September 2020, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney announced their intention to buy Wrexham A.F.C., a Welsh football (or soccer to the Yanks) club playing in the National League, the fifth tier of English football. This series follows the actors’ purchase of the club, before following them through the remainder of that season and the whole of the next one, as they look to earn promotion from the National League, where they have played since their relegation from League 2 at the end of the 2007/8 season.
Sporting documentaries following a team through the year are growing in popularity following the success of series like Sunderland ‘Til I Die and Formula 1: Drive to Survive, and while Welcome to Wrexham is another in the growing list of these documentary series, it is not just that, and that is due to the main men: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
You may know Rob from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a comedy series which he created and co-developed and on which he serves as an executive producer, co-writer, and occasional director, while also playing the role of Ronald “Mac” McDonald. And Ryan Reynolds… well, enough said there. And their personalities are clearly on show throughout this series, as they will provide voice-over for the series, so even episodes that barely feature them in the story still benefit from their involvement and help to make this a series that will attract viewers who wouldn’t usually look at a sporting documentary like this. And yet while their influence on the series is huge, they don’t take over the show, allowing a number of people affiliated with the club—including manager Phil Parkinson, players, staff and local fans—to all have their own part in this show that is equally important.
And even more than that, Ryan and Rob have had the foresight to know that this show will bring in a lot of viewers, especially in the USA, who won’t understand soccer, british slang, the English football league structure or have ever heard of Wrexham, or even Wales for that matter! And so the show does a great job of explaining things like the league structure, promotion and relegation with quick, simple graphics and explanations that allow the uninitiated to get the info they need without taking too long and making die-hard fans mentally switch off, while they will also take the time to give American translations to certain British words to help avoid confusion, such as “pitch” and “quid”. But even as a Brit, these quick translation breaks don’t feel annoying as they fit the tone of the show, as we have 2 Americans who are new to soccer taking over the club, it just feels like part of their learning process, while the show actually still taught me in these moments by including the Welsh translation.
And this is what I really came to love as the show went on. It is clear that Rob and Ryan respect the community and don’t just see this as a way to earn some extra clout, and that comes through as we see Rob learning Welsh, while the Welsh translations being included lead to an episode mid-way through the series that puts the sporting narrative on hold and instead takes 30 minutes to teach the audience about Welsh history and culture. This show isn’t just gaining Wrexham A.F.C. more fans, it’s putting Wrexham and Wales on the world map.
Of course in all this, I haven’t really mentioned much about the sport side of things, and some die-hards may sometimes wish that we got a bit more of a sporting focus, but that is not the aim of this series, as it instead shows just what goes into owning a club, while I’m sure that season 2 may start to focus on the sporting side a little more now that the team and players have been introduced to the masses. But that is not to say that those stories are not there in season 1. We see the pressure Phil Parkinson is under after early struggles, we see the impact of star striker Paul Mullen, the loss of star defender Aaron Hayden and keeper Rob Lainton to injury. We see a cup run that ends in Wembley heartbreak and a league campaign that ends in crazy fashion. And yet we still have time to look at the role of hooliganism in football after an incident following a game, the role that football can have in male relationships, and even does a great job of finding the right tone to address one of the players going through the heartbreak of his son being stillborn.
This is a show not to be missed, and it says a lot that in a month where there were so many major shows coming out on streaming, I was equally excited for new episodes of this as I was for House of the Dragon and Andor, and more so than She-Hulk and Rings of Power—something that I would never have expected ahead of time as I am such a massive geek!
My highlight of the series: Phil Parkinson’s “enthusiasm counter” during his team talks.
What did you think of Welcome to Wrexham? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!