Like a disreputable uncle who has worked his way back into everyone's good graces, the disco beat returns tonight in a fun and frothy two-hour ABC special, "The Disco Ball" (8 p.m.).
From the peak of the "Saturday Night Fever" era in the late '70s to the withering backlash that followed, it's been a wild ride for the genre. But the 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of the Bee Gees, disco's poster boys and then its whipping boys, seemed to signal an all-is-forgiven acceptance, and this special carries on in that spirit.
Filmed at the Shrine Auditorium, which was transformed into a glittering disco palace for the occasion, the high-energy audience is treated to one vintage hit maker after another: K.C. and the Sunshine Band ("Shake Your Booty," "Get Down Tonight"), Thelma Houston ("Don't Leave Me This Way"), Gloria Gaynor ("I Will Survive") -- they're all here, and when they're not, new blood's on hand to fill in (Usher on "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"; Aaron Carter on "I Just Want to Be Your Everything").
The Village People return in full regalia, while writer/guest Bruce Vilanch is simply regal in his get-up. Whoopi Goldberg, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and George Lopez are among the hosts who introduce and intermingle with the acts, but the downtime is kept to a minimum. After all, why cool off the "Disco Inferno"?