So do we get the

American Idol

we deserve? Or do we get the singer the record company foists on us?

As long as the Fox karaoke juggernaut refuses to make the voting results transparent, the suspicion will persist that Idol is fixed.

This week's semifinals brought a record 95 million votes. And how do we know? Because Ryan Seacrest tells us so.

Notice how volatile the results have been this year, with heavy audience favorites ambushed early.

First, Pia Toscano gets the heave-ho. Idol has tried pretty power-ballad singers before. Remember Katherine McPhee? Neither does anyone else.

Then Casey Abrams got pink-slipped. A guy who wants to repopularize jazz? Good luck peddling that.

The most shocking elmination this year was James Durbin. Ah, but rockers who can hit impossibly high notes have limited commercial appeal. Right, Adam Lambert?

So what flavor of Idol contestant does sell records with remarkable consistency? Cue the fiddles, Jethro.

The Idol with the most clout at the cash register is Carrie Underwood. No surprise there.

But Idol also-rans as obscure as Josh Gracin (better known as "the Singing Marine"), Phil Stacey, and Kristy Lee Cook have done well on the country charts.

Kellie Pickler, who finished sixth in season five, has had a No. 1 country album. Twice. Even Bucky Covington, who was sent packing before Pickler that season, has placed an album atop the country charts.

So while next week's final between Dixie hummingbirds Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina may seem disappointingly bland to fans of the show, Interscope records boss Jimmy Iovine can't lose. Either way, he gets a country singer.

Even so, it's pretty obvious who Iovine is pulling for. Before the results on Thursday night, he told viewers that the one thing he could guarantee was that there'd be a guy in the finals. Actually, Jimmy, given the gender breakdown of the semifinalists, the only statistical certainty was that a girl would make the final two.

In a season of ridiculous hyperbole by the judges, the most outrageous accolade of all came from Iovine on Wednesday night. Of Scotty's merely competent cover of Thompson Square, he said, "I thought Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks had a baby." You could see the dollar signs spinning behind his sunglasses-at-night.

Want to escape the idea that Scotty was preordained, that next week is merely a formality?

You'd have more a lot more credibilty, Idol, if you trotted out the accountants from Ernst & Young before the final announcement.

She's got their number. This week's episode of Glee? Hated it. It was a combination platter of the things that most annoy me about the series: too many show tunes and a manipulatively maudlin plot that had Sue Sylvester going all soft, tender, and gooey after her sister's death. Plus, the worst lip-synching in three seasons.

But before she went over to the bright side, Sue delivered an inspired series of nasty nicknames for Kurt and Finn, variously referring to the pair as Eddie Munster and Herman Munster, Porcelain and Cottage Cheese, and Lady Trousers and Frankenteen.

Look who's back. This was the week the networks took the wraps off all their new shows for fall. For the poor schlubs like me who write about TV, it's a happy ritual, like when the guy up in the crow's nest shouts, "Land ho!"

But it's also a time of consternation because there are always a few feeble shows that get renewed despite all reason or rhyme, thus subverting the rule of natural selection.

Every network has a stinky survivor: ABC returns Happy Endings; CBS is sticking with Rules of Engagement; Fox is keeping Bob's Burgers in business; and NBC, it would seem, can never say goodbye to Chuck.

But the winner of the According to Jim award, presented each year by Jim Belushi to the show that simply refuses to die, is the CW's One Tree Hill.

Live long and falter!

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his pop-culture blog at www.philly.com/dod.