'The Middle': When Betty White Appeared on the ABC Comedy, This Star Had No Idea Who She Was

'The Middle': When Betty White Appeared on the ABC Comedy, This Star Had No Idea Who She Was

11/17/2021

Legendary actor Betty White is inarguably one of America’s most beloved entertainers. Yet, when she appeared on ABC’s popular comedy The Middle during the show’s first season, one of its stars had to do research on who she was because they had never heard of her.

The episode of ‘The Middle’ Betty White appeared in

What turned out to be White’s one and only appearance on The Middle was for the first season’s finale episode, “Average Rules.” The star of The Golden Girls played the school librarian Mrs. Nethercott, “an institution at Orson Elementary,” as Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton) described her.

In the episode, Frankie and her husband Mike (Neil Flynn) learn that their bookworm son, Brick (Atticus Shaffer) may not be promoted to the third grade if he doesn’t return 31 books that he’s borrowed from the school library.

White’s Mrs. Nethercott tells Brick, “For years, I have watched as you’ve checked out book after book after book, and brought them back covered with syrup and yogurt. That is, if they even come back at all.” When Brick tries to convince her he’s not at fault, Mrs. Nethercott makes it clear she is done with excuses and tells him, “I want them back, all of them, or you’re not going into third grade.”

‘Brick’ actor Atticus Shaffer had never heard of Betty White

In a visit to the Bonnie Hunt Show in 2010, Shaffer confessed that when he heard White would be appearing on the sitcom, he was at a loss for who she was.

“I didn’t know Betty White at first,” the actor admitted to Hunt. “At the table read, I had no clue who she was. But I like to know who I’m working with, so I looked her up, and I saw all the things that she’s done, realizing that she’s like an icon basically. So I had a general idea of what she is.”

Shaffer added that he recalled seeing her at that time in the now-iconic candy commercial that is credited with landing her an eventual Emmy Award-winning gig hosting SNL.

“I actually saw her recently on a Snickers bar commercial and so I knew, ‘Alright, this is who I’m working with,’” he said. “I loved working with her.”

Betty White talked about her appearance on ‘The Middle’

It’s almost jarring for fans of White’s to hear her severe tone with Brick as she drives home the point that he may be held back in second grade because of his unreturned books, telling the child, “That’s right, no fractions for you. No cursive. No field trip to an Amish farm. You think you can make it out in the real world without cursive? You can’t!”

“I play the librarian,” White told the WB at that time. “And she’s a good librarian and an OK person, but she’s a little stern and a little strict with Atticus, with Brick. So it’s kind of fun that she’s running the show.”

The Middle ended its nine-season run in 2018. Thankfully, fans can still watch it in reruns (and right now, on HBO Max) to enjoy seeing Betty White steal every scene she was in on the ABC comedy’s episode.

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