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Red carpet runway

It’s my favorite time of year. No, not the cold, gray, and (sometimes) snowy winter months of the Northeast.

It’s awards season.

Every couple of Sunday nights in January and February, various guilds and associations in Hollywood gather to bestow honors upon the finest works and performances of the previous year. Like clockwork, the season starts with the Golden Globes in mid-January, then the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards at the end of the month, the Grammys in early February, and the big kahuna, the Academy Awards, which caps it all off at month’s end. (The Emmys are awarded in September.)

But it’s not the awards shows themselves — self-congratulatory, often meaningless, and frequently too long by half — about which I care. It’s the pre-show, specifically E!’s two-hour Live From the Red Carpet. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Guiliana Rancic — with bird’s-eye-view commentary by Kelly Osbourne and a special guest in a skybooth — each star steps up to the microphone to answer softball questions about how it felt to be nominated (it was a shock and an honor), what it was like to work with her A-list co-star/director/producer (a privilege to be around such a professional), and what she did that day (served breakfast to her kids).

(If I really wanted to indulge, I would also watch Countdown to the Red Carpet, all-day coverage of nominees and behind-the-scenes preparations, often of the hosts themselves getting ready. But I resist.)

The most important question, though, is who designed her dress, which Ryan, in particular, sometimes forgets to ask — as if he doesn’t know what his job truly is. (When this happens, Twitter erupts in indignant protest.) The actress dutifully rattles off a list of designers for her dress, shoes, handbag, and/or jewelry that could rival the credit list of a fashion spread in Vogue. It’s a dance, and they both know their parts.

E! has done a genius job of fetishizing and scrutinizing every element of an actress’s look: She may walk her hands through a “mani-cam,” showing off her nail art; place her high-heeled foot on a designated spot for the “stiletto cam,” and/or step onto a platform where a camera captures a 360-degree view of her entire body. In the meantime, Kelly reports on viewer favorites, drawn from real-time voting, and fashion reporters in my Twitter stream tweet press releases from designers about the stars they’ve outfitted.

The apotheosis of the ritual — indeed, the competition that E! has set up among stars — is an hour-long special Fashion Police the following Monday night. Joan Rivers presides, along with Guiliana, Kelly, stylist George Kotsiopoulos, and a special guest or two, as they review major fashion and beauty trends and pronounce the best and worst dressed of the night. The same stars over whom they were cooing the previous night often get torn apart for sartorial infractions.

I love every second of it. See you on awards night.

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