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‘Welcome to Wrexham’ gets an assist from Ryan Reynolds but still doesn’t score

<i>Patrick McElhenney/FX</i><br/>
Patrick McElhenney/FX
"Welcome to Wrexham" desperately wants to position itself as "the real 'Ted Lasso

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

“Welcome to Wrexham” desperately wants to position itself as “the real ‘Ted Lasso,'” but that’s only part of what’s going on in this FX docuseries, in which Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney buy a struggling Welsh soccer team. The resulting series is a little of this, a bit of that, and like its featured franchise, plays more like a wannabe than a true contender.

The main problem is that everything about the exercise feels so conspicuously manufactured — less the product of inspiration than something that agents cooked up over drinks — beginning with the decision to film each part of the process for the purpose of turning it into a TV show.

Reynolds and the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star’s earnest “We’re just doing this because we love the communal nature of sports” blather would sound more convincing if these Hollywood figures weren’t concocting entertainment (admittedly of a relatively inexpensive variety) around their endeavors.

“Wrexham” also self-consciously depicts itself, as Reynolds overtly describes it, as “an underdog story,” with these new owners hoping to turn the struggling franchise into a winner and earn the team promotion into the higher tiers of the English soccer league. The amount of time spent explaining how all that works is necessary, perhaps, but every bit as exciting as that sounds.

What’s left, then, is a juggling of multiple elements, alternating between the stars, up-close-and-personal stories about individual players and introductions to certain parts of the town’s blue-collar fan base.

In short, “Welcome to Wrexham” can’t decide exactly what it wants to be, and ends up being not much of anything. Like soccer, there’s plenty of activity, without scoring a whole lot of points in its favor.

After previewing five episodes of the 18-episode first season, the best moments turn out to have come during the beginning, when McElhenney talks about his dream of buying a team and how despite his TV-gotten riches, “I needed movie-star money” to make that happen. Throw in his gin game, and at least that explains why McElhenney enlisted Reynolds, who he had never met in person before the two became social-media pals.

There’s obviously no mystery why FX would have agreed to the idea, combining as it does an actor with a huge social-media following and the star/producer of one of the network’s long-running series. And while it’s amusing to see people showing up at games in Deadpool costumes, the show mostly reinforces the limits of basing programming decisions on Instagram followers.

Because the underdog aspect notwithstanding, this isn’t “the real ‘Ted Lasso.'” Indeed, at times it all feels so massaged and orchestrated, it doesn’t even play like the real “Welcome to Wrexham.”

“Welcome to Wrexham” premieres Aug. 24 on 10 p.m. ET on FX, and Aug. 25 on Hulu in the US and Disney+ in the UK.

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