Awards Season: Your Guide to the Red Carpet

Come January, those of us who merely endure football are rewarded with a short but refreshing change of season. Much is made of seasonal transitions -- when the swelter of summer gives way to cooler fall temperatures, or when leaves change from green to brilliant reds and golds -- but the best transition of all is when the NFL regular season moves into the playoffs, making room on the networks for an even more bloodthirsty battle: Hollywood award shows.

The fun begins this week with the People's Choice Awards and runs through the end of February with the pièce de résistance of award shows, the Academy Awards.

Gowns! Jewels! Hair! And lots and lots of black tuxedos.

People's Choice Awards

Show Details: Wednesday, January 9, on CBS (9 p.m./8 p.m. CT)

If the Oscars are champagne, the People's Choice Awards are the four liter Carlo Rossi Sangria of award shows: pretty cheap, more than you really need, and you feel a little sick after the first hour. Tune in one hour early to catch the live red carpet special -- it's your best bet to see the dresses without actually watching the telecast. This year's show is hosted by The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco.

Pro Tip: Don't worry about getting too drunk to make it through the whole thing. Just pass out when you reach the tipping point.

Critic's Choice Awards

Show Details: Thursday, January 10, on The CW (8 p.m./7 p.m. CT)

The Critic's Choice Awards have a little more industry heft and weight, so expect the clothing to be slightly more formal than at the People's Choice Awards (where you will see plenty of cocktail dresses and suits to balance out gowns and tuxes). There will be a few more casual options on both men and women, but most folks are using these early shows as litmus tests for what they will wear to shows like the Globes and Oscars.

Pro Tip: Go on Twitter and harass people who care enough about the Critic's Choice Awards to live-tweet the entire ceremony.

The Golden Globes

Show Details: Sunday, January 13, on NBC (8 p.m./7 p.m. CT)

This year's Golden Globes will be co-hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, so we will see double the costume changes -- great news for us gown-hounds. While most attendees (particularly of the on-camera variety) will choose to go formal, the show itself is usually considered more fun than the Academy Awards. Some of the more memorable fashion of award season shows up at the Globes, so the red carpet is a definite "don't miss." Golden Globe coverage begins at 4 p.m. CT on E! network, and a one-hour red carpet special will run on NBC starting at 7 p.m. You can also live-stream the red carpet at E! Online.

Pro Tip: Follow the ladies from Go Fug Yourself for this one: @fuggirls. They are a joy to Tweet with during award shows.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

Show Details: Sunday, January 27, on TNT and TBS (8 p.m./7 p.m. CT)

Hard-core award show fans love the SAGs more than any other show, save the Globes and the Oscars. First and foremost, there is no host, so the ceremony moves along quickly because there are no skits or jokes to sit through -- the whole thing lasts two hours, start to finish (not counting your pre-show red carpet coverage). Second, the opening segment always includes actors telling a brief, amusing anecdote about how they came to be an actor with a SAG card. Hate unions? This show isn't for you. Pre-show red carpet shows on E! and TNT/TBS.

Pro Tip: Actors get kind of drunk at this one -- you should, too.

Spirit Awards

Show Details: Saturday, February 23, on IFC (10 p.m./9 p.m. CT)

If you get the Independent Film Channel, you are in luck! You can watch the most hipster of all the award shows -- the Spirit Awards -- which features all of your favorite indie actors trying very hard to prove they don't care much about how they look. Un-brushed hair, inappropriate fabric choices and wonky hemlines as far as the eye can see.

Pro Tip: Get prepared by watching all of the Chloe Sevigny parody videos available on YouTube.

Academy Awards

Show Details: Sunday, February 24, on ABC (7 p .m./6 p.m. CT)

All the other award shows are the warm-up -- this is the Olympics. The best dresses will show up tonight, and missteps made on other red carpets can fade into a distant memory -- with the right stylist. Tune in to E! all afternoon for red carpet coverage, and to ABC one hour before the show for the network's red carpet special. Seth MacFarlane hosts this year's Academy Awards (he will announce the nominations on January 10), bringing a solid blend of biting humor and actual performance talent to the stage.

Pro Tip: Even if you don't host or attend an Oscar-viewing party, have one by yourself. Dress up. Do your hair. Make fancy foods and drink fancy drinks, and re-apply your lipstick as needed. Don't just record the red carpet pre-show, but tune in to E! the next day and watch the recap. This is our Super Bowl.

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Christina Uticone