Ryan Reynolds

‘Welcome to Wrexham’ receives an assist from Ryan Reynolds but fails to score.

(CNN) — “Welcome to Wrexham” desperately wants to be known as “the real ‘Ted Lasso,'” but that’s only part of the story in this FX docuseries about Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney buying a struggling Welsh soccer team. The resulting series is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and, like its featured franchise, plays more like a pretender than a true contender.

The main issue is that everything about the exercise feels overly manufactured, as if it were concocted by agents over drinks, beginning with the decision to film each step 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 be more convincing if these Hollywood figures weren’t concocting entertainment (albeit of the relatively low-budget variety) around their endeavours.
“Wrexham” also self-consciously portrays itself as “an underdog story,” as Reynolds explicitly states, with the new owners hoping to turn the struggling franchise into a winner and earn the team promotion to the higher tiers of the English soccer league. Perhaps the amount of time spent explaining how everything works is necessary, but it is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

What’s left is a juggle of various elements, alternating between the stars, up-close-and-personal stories about individual players, and introductions to specific segments of the town’s blue-collar fan base.
In short, “Welcome to Wrexham” struggles to decide what it wants to be and ends up being nothing. Like soccer, there is a lot of activity but not a lot of points scored in its favour.

After watching five episodes of the 18-episode first season, the best moments come near the beginning, when McElhenney discusses his dream of owning a team and how, despite his TV fortune, “I needed movie-star money” to make that happen. Add in his gin game, and you can see why McElhenney enlisted Reynolds, whom he had never met in person before becoming social-media pals.

It’s obvious why FX would agree to the idea, which combines an actor with a large social-media following and the star/producer of one of the network’s long-running series. While it’s amusing to see people dressed as Deadpool at sporting events, the show mostly reinforces the limitations of basing programming decisions on Instagram followers.

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