Chicago’s ‘grayness’ chases pilot away?

With Vince Vaughn in town Wednesday through Friday to direct the mini-pilot for his half-hour comedy, “Firsts,” the biggest pilot season ever to descend on Chicago has begun.

“Firsts” will be produced by his Wild West Productions after it’s picked up as a network series — and said series hopefully shot here.

But wait, some disappointment and chagrin has clouded the scene, as one of the three Fox TV pilots scheduled to shoot here this month bailed, thus trimming the number of pilots to five.

The half-hour comedy, “Friends without Benefits,” which was going to shoot mostly all exteriors, is returning to sunny California. The reason, so the story goes (but who ever knows the real motivation?), is because someone in command of the show felt the city was “too gray for the romantic mood” of the show. Chicago gray in March? Who’d thunk it.

The production staff, which had breathed some viability into the Ryerson space, canceled the crew and vendors and is headed back to breezy palms and sunlit malls.

The story is about five friends who are on the lookout for perfect mates, but are willing to temporarily settle on friends with benefits. Very romantic, indeed.

“What’s disappointing about this,” said a vendor who had been charged up about working on the pilot, “is that it eliminates one possibility for an entire series to be shot here this year”

In other TV pilot news:

–The start date for much-anticipated hourlong cop drama, “Ridealong,” has been postponed for a second time, due to casting issue, not atmospheric conditions. Probable start date is April 6.

Fox TV executives, who feel “Ridealong” will be a big hit, was willing to wait until the ideal actor was found for a certain role, rather than take creator/executive producer Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) up on his offer of a rewrite.

“Ridealong” will center on three groups of police officers –ranging from uniformed beat cops to the female chief of police. Ryan said earlier he hopes to shoot the series in Chicago, which he made a part of the show.

–Jason Isaacs will play the lead in the Fox TV legal drama “Pleading Guilty,” based on the Scott Turow novel of the same name.

His character, Mack, is a former cop and current attorney who investigates the disappearance of his firm’s star litigator. Isaacs’ last starring TV gig was Showtime’s “Brotherhood,” before it ended in 2008.

–Finally, Sony TV’s hourlong action drama, “A.T.F.” has been given a new name: it’s now titled “The Line.”