There’s no clearer window into Houston’s soul, or maybe just the soft brown underbelly of its 3 a.m. fever dream, than Channel 61, the independent Spanish-language station that's carried on the Channel 3 spot on the cable system.
As the true cognoscenti know, Channel 61 is the local home to the Jose Luis Sin Censura show, a sort of lower-rent Jerry Springer (if such is possible), except the overweight and tattooed products of consanguineous marriages who strut and preen their fretful half-hour on cheeky Jose Luis’s stage sometimes appear to be actually fighting, or at least look to be a little closer to actually throwing down (lots of sweat, shirts pulled up over the head, a hint of blood on the lip) than the usual flailing-away-at-the-air and tiresome trash talk that passes for “violence” on the Springer show (we generally understand only a fraction of what they’re saying on Jose Luis, which may explain why we do not find the trash talk tiresome).
Another 61 warhorse is Secretos de Houston, in which a leather-clad team of sexy professional busybodies led by the suave J.C. Uribe uses the latest in electronic surveillance equipment to ensnare philandering Hispanic husbands and wives in their love-nest hideaways. After the offending esposa or esposo is cornered---usually by methods that in “real life” would constitute unauthorized entry---Uribe’s team ushers in the cuckolded spouse to confront his or her formerly significant other, who invariably is poised to slap the ham with someone much younger and more attractive. These confrontations always culminate in a round of Springeresque swearing and swinging, although Uribe wisely has some muscle on hand to see that nobody gets killed. (The acting’s not too bad on Secretos---a notch or two below your average TUTS production---and no knowledge of Spanish, or any other spoken language, is required to follow the “plots.”)
It appears that Secretos is a syndicated show that splices in some footage and local color for the markets where it airs. That’s what gives the show a kind of updated Naked City feel: When Uribe’s assistants tail their target past some graffiti-pocked apartment complex offering $99 move-in specials, we go, “Hey, we drive past there sometimes!” Or when a scheming husband is caught on-camera going into the Best Buy near the Galleria to procure some equipment with which to film homemade “pornos” of two senoritas mas fina (and it’s a real shame his naggin’ wife had to bust in on ’em before production got under way), we exclaim, “Hey, we shop there sometimes!”
But it’s the early morning programas pagado that really get us to thinking we should move to the south of France, or the south of Utah, as soon as we can get off the clock. Our longtime favorite---and we know there are others out there who share our enthusiasm---is the faith healer and snake handler who goes by the name of Indio Apache. (Not to be confused with his earlier-morning rival, Indian Kamacum del Amazonas, a less animated presence who bears a passing resemblance to Hidalgo “High-Born” Hidalgo, a Channel 61 viewer and the onetime reader representative and executive editor at Slampo’s Place who recently left our employ because, as he put it, “I’d rather go jump on the back of a truck at 5 a.m. everyday than keep slaving for what you pay me.”)
Indio’s the guy in the headdress and war paint who’s usually clutching a copperhead (or maybe it’s just a coral snake) while calling down the blessings of Our Lady de Guadalupe, somebody named “Padre Santos” and various other deities and sub-deities with whom we’re unfamiliar.
Money problems, bad luck, sickness, an unresponsive lover---Indio Apache says he can fix what ails you (although for some reason he’s not on our HMO’s list of preferred providers).
We’ve only seen Indio Apache a few times, usually when someone in our household has been watching a DVD the previous evening and left the TV tuned to Channel 3, so we really can’t vouch for his effectiveness, although we see no reason why he would not qualify for sponsorship by the Houston Chronicle.