Try out Mepis or Knoppix. They are liveCDs, meaning it can be run straight off of the CD. They're based on Debian, so that when you do a hard drive install with them, the hard drive install is essentially Debian.
However, they have some advantages over a traditional Debian install, including:
1. You just burn one CD, rather than a gazillion.
2. They include excellent automatic hardware detection. VERY newbie friendly.
3. The hard drive install process is simpler. Also very newbie friendly.