Why Welcome to Wrexham has moved to a spring release in the calendar (2024)

Rob McElhenney knows a thing or two about the need for a popular TV show to evolve.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the sitcom he co-created and continues to star in, is the longest-running live-action American comedy series in history — with the 17th series due out later this year.

So, it should come as no surprise that the 47-year-old realised very early in the lifespan of Welcome to Wrexham that a shift from an autumn broadcast to the spring would help the show enormously.

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“That was a decision that I came to early on,” admitted McElhenney when speaking exclusively to The Athletic back in November, just after the change in scheduling had been announced. “When I realised how much time was going to elapse between the end of the football season and the doc airing.

“I just felt as though there was a missed opportunity to line up a lot of the interests that are organic to the end of a football season and the interests of the documentary.


“I knew it would be an exceptional challenge to try and time it out because you don’t know what is going to happen, in the end. Of course, when you have this much time between the end of the season and airing of season two, you know what happens in the end.

“There are so many episodes that are crafted, knowing where it is headed. We knew it would be both a narrative and creative challenge — also an operational challenge — because we are going to have to completely change the way we work, both laying out and creating the storylines and then actually executing and delivering the show.

“The challenge will be worth it. We always like to switch things up and do the unexpected.”

Why Welcome to Wrexham has moved to a spring release in the calendar (2)

(Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

Viewers will get to decide for themselves whether the shift works or not later this week when the third series premieres in the United States on Thursday and the UK a day later.

What surely isn’t in doubt ishow Wrexham’s recent promotion — Phil Parkinson’s side only finished their season last Saturday with a 2-1 victory over champions Stockport County— has whetted the appetite of supporters.

Instead of having to wait the best part of five months to relive the drama, as happened with the club’s National League title success in series two. This time, the action from the run-in will be so recent that if it was a newspaper the ink would still be wet.

Of course, this won’t be the case in the early episodes of the new eight-part series. Until the football season is split into two segments of TV by Welcome to Wrexham to be aired at, say, Christmas and then May — maybe something for the producers to consider in the future, as the evolving process continues — there will always be an inevitable time-lag between events at the start of a football season happening and reaching the screen.

But, as Wrexham get closer and closer to the finish line, the value of this year’s change will surely be felt, especially for die-hard fans.

It isn’t just a desire for more immediacy that lies behind the shift. There’s also the need to provide more continuity for those whose interest from overseas doesn’t necessarily stretch as far as following events at the SToK Cae Ras on even a month-by-month basis, never mind day-to-day.

Imagine the confusion last autumn to be watching Wrexham face Dorking Wanderers and Yeovil Town on the show, but then checking the current league table and seeing no mention of either. Or Paul Mullin, Ollie Palmer et al sporting a completely different kit on TV, complete with TikTok on the front rather than the current sponsor, United Airlines.

Any chance of converting fans of the show into fans of the club — which, of course, is the ultimate aim — suddenly becomes much harder. Instead, Wrexham feel far more relatable if going head-to-head for promotion on the screen with, say, Stockport and Mansfield, two teams who have visited the Racecourse in the past five weeks.

Pulling the broadcast time forward to May 2 — it was going to be a fortnight earlier until a late change of plan — has brought big changes for those behind the scenes of the show.

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(Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

Such a tight turnaround for the later episodes brought more than a few headaches, not least in trying to second guess when promotion might be sealed. All manner of possibilities, including the logistical nightmare scenario for the producers of having to go down the play-offs route, were on the table at one stage.

In the end, the big moment came on April 13 when Forest Green Rovers were thrashed 6-0 as Barrow and Milton Keynes Dons dropped points elsewhere. But imagine if Wrexham had finished outside the top three.

Then, the season’s denouement would have come in either the play-off semi-finals or final, the latter scheduled to take place on May 19. Had the original timetable of premiering the first two episodes on April 18 been stuck to, chances are the finale would have been broadcast just days after that Wembley decider.


There really would have been some sleepless nights among the production team then.

As it is, Wrexham’s fate being sealed with two games to spare did everyone a huge favour. Not only does a happy ending add to the sense of anticipation among supporters, but moving up to League One, a level the club last competed in 19 years ago, brings yet another fascinating aspect to the major narrative surrounding this previously provincial football club.

Namely, just how far can Wrexham go up the leagues under the leadership of McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds?

A win-win, therefore, as the documentary looks to keep evolving, while also offering that reassuring sense of familiarity that fans have grown to cherish.

“We are very proud of the first two seasons of the show,” added co-owner McElhenney in another previously unpublished section of that November interview. “I’ve always felt like this when we continue to make seasons of anything, you want to deliver something to the audiences they’ve come to expect. And that they enjoy.

“Yet also surprise them and bring them something new. A reason to keep coming back. We felt as though a change of schedule would create that and only add to the anticipation and add to the excitement.

“Make it feel like something that has been lost, maybe over the last 10 or so years. Which are those events that seem to be happening in real-time and are communal experiences. Sports is one of the last examples of that.”

(Top photo: Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

Why Welcome to Wrexham has moved to a spring release in the calendar (2024)
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