I had this same dilemma five years ago. I've done the linux and windows server route, and the best I have found in terms of making it wife-friendly is to stick with windows. This holds true for a couple other things as well. If you're familiar with linux and know the software you need to rip DVD's, Music, etc then you'd be find going that route. But if you want to get this up and running with minimal effort you're going to find a lot more help on Google for windows software when it comes to ripping your media.
As for what interface to use, this is up to you. I have done everything from having the PC hooked straight to the TV, to then using my XBOX to access it, to now using a Smart TV (one with PLEX, one with the built in DLNA app) to view my media.
Hard drives are cheap, go buy a 1, or 2, or whatever TB hard drive fits your needs and stick it in an old computer and start throwing your media on it. If you want to hook the computer straight to the TV, XBMC is a great interface (the Android beta is now out but I haven't tried it yet). If you have an XBOX or PS3 or DLNA capable TV, just put the files into appropriate folders and share them and you'll be able to browse them from the device.